Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010
Operation of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005
This annual report is prepared in accordance with section 75 of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (WELS Act). It covers the operation of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS ) scheme from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010.
The WELS Act provides for the operation of a national WELS scheme, implemented cooperatively by Australian, state and territory governments.
The scheme aims to reduce the demand for water through: the requirement to provide comparative water efficiency information to prospective purchasers of specified water-using products; the setting of mandatory minimum water efficiency standards in some instances; and by promoting the adoption of water efficient technologies.
Since 1 July 2006, products specified under the WELS scheme must be tested for their water efficiency and display a water efficiency rating label. Minimum water efficiency requirements are specified for some products. Products regulated under the scheme are: showers, dishwashers, clothes washing machines, toilet equipment (including urinals), taps and flow controllers (registration of flow controllers is optional).
From its inception the WELS scheme has brought about a significant reduction in the demand for urban water. From studies undertaken for the department it is estimated that the current scheme will help to reduce domestic water use by more than 800 gigalitres by 2021. Nearly half the water savings are predicted to come from more efficient washing machines, about 32 per cent from showers and 21 per cent from toilets.
Further development of the WELS scheme
At the request of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) the department has undertaken an extensive program of work to consider the development of the WELS scheme including consideration of the:
- possible introduction of minimum standards for clothes washing machines and dishwashers, and a new water-use labelling requirement for the dryer-mode of combination washer-dryers
- possible introduction of minimum standards for showers, taps, urinals, and raising the existing minimum standards for toilets
- inclusion of hot water circulators, domestic irrigation controllers, instantaneous gas water heaters and evaporative air conditioners in the WELS scheme.
In 2009-10 several elements of this work were brought to a conclusion. A regulation impact statement was completed on the possible introduction of minimum water efficiency standards for clothes washing machines and water-use labelling of combination washer-dryers that use water in the dryer mode. The EPHC considered this proposal in July 2010 and its decision is available on the WELS scheme website at www.waterrating.gov.au
Two reports examining the suitability of hot water circulators and domestic irrigation controllers for inclusion were also completed during 2009-10 and published on the WELS scheme website. The studies recommended that these products not be included in the scheme. EPHC ministers accepted the findings of the reports and agreed to conclude investigations into these products.
Independent review of the scheme
In 2009-10 the scheme completed its fifth year of operation. Consistent with the legislation an independent review considered all aspects of the scheme including cost effectiveness, appropriateness, efficiency and improvements that can be made.
Dr Chris Guest was appointed to undertake the review. Dr Guest released a discussion paper and held meetings in several capital cities and via teleconferencing, with stakeholders from industry, the states and territories, and consumer representatives. Public submissions were called for over a four-week period in April-May 2010. Twenty-eight submissions were received.
The final report on the review was completed on 30 June 2010. The report is to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within 15 sitting days of that date. The findings of the review are expected to be considered by both the government and the EPHC during 2010-11 and a response and action plan released.
Proposed legislative amendment
On 16 June 2010 the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill 2010 was introduced into parliament. If enacted, this Bill will enable the minister to determine that WaterMark certification is a requirement for WELS registration, thus implementing recommendation two of the 2007 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage Inquiry into Australian regulation of plumbing product quality, Managing the Flow.
Since 1 July 2005, 13,949 product models have been registered under the scheme. The number of product models registered in 2009-10 was 2,049.
During the initial years of the scheme the primary focus was on educating and assisting suppliers in meeting their new obligations. The department is, however, now implementing a structured compliance program that includes Australia-wide inspections. In 2009-10 approximately 300 inspections of retail outlets were conducted. All inspections and any follow-up enforcement action are undertaken in accordance with the department's compliance and enforcement policy.
During 2009-10 the department's Water Information Line received 545 telephone inquiries on its 1800 number regarding the WELS scheme. In addition, WELS staff provided individual assistance to product manufacturers and suppliers, particularly giving guidance on product registrations, through telephone and online enquiries.
The WELS website was updated to include links to research reports published as part of the possible expansion of the WELS scheme.
A separate section of the department's website was also established to host the website of the independent review of the WELS scheme. This site included information about the independent reviewer, terms of reference and the process for making public submissions. Copies of a discussion paper and stakeholder submissions were also made available.
Water efficiency standards
The Act provides that the minister may determine the WELS standard that will apply to products under the scheme. The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Determination 2007 specifies the current WELS standard as AS/NZ 6400:2005 Water efficient products - Rating and labelling, as reissued incorporating Amendment 3.
During 2009-10 the department worked with Standards Australia to consider amendments to AS/NZS 6400:2005 that would address limitations applying to specific niche products. Standards Australia subsequently published Amendment 4 to this standard on 21 June 2010. This amendment adds cold-only-connect clothes washing machines to the requirements of the standard and allows for appropriate testing of low pressure showerheads and taps. Consideration is currently being given to the application of this amendment to the WELS scheme through a determination.
The WELS Advisory Committee was established under the WELS Intergovernmental Agreement. It comprises representatives from each state and territory and the Australian Government and met once during 2009-10. Three meetings were also held with state and territory representatives, to consider matters relating to the independent review of the WELS scheme.
The WELS website is at www.waterrating.gov.au
- Letter of transmittal
- Executive summary
- Outcome 1 - Conserving our natural assets
- Outcome 2 - Living and working sustainably
- Operation of the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989
- Operation of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989
- Operation of the product stewardship arrangements for oil including the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000
- Operation of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000
- Outcome 3 - Protecting Antarctica
- Outcome 4 - Adapting to a future with less water
- Outcome 5 - Protecting and enhancing Australia's culture and heritage
- Corporate Outcome - Improving organisational effectiveness
- Financial statements
- List of requirements