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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
Thursday, 2 October 2003
Dr David Kemp: This morning the Environment Ministers from around Australia met and made a very significant decision in relation to improved efficiency in water usage. This follows on the decision that was made by the Prime Ministers and the Premiers at COAG for the National Water Initiative.
One of the things that is obvious is that much of the water that we use is in urban communities and we wanted to give consumers the opportunity to purchase water efficient appliances.
So the Environment Ministers this morning have decided that there will be now a mandatory water efficiency-labelling scheme for household appliances. This will apply to showerheads, washing machines, dishwashers and toilets. In an addition a new standard will be developed for water volume in toilet flushers. So this is going to be a very significant advance in efficient water usage within our cities.
This scheme is going to operate to make very significant savings in water over the coming years. By 2021 we estimate that some 87 gigalitres a year will be saved - a very significant amount of water. It will result in savings to consumers and the community of over $600million a year. The other very significant feature of this decision is that it is a world first.
Australia is the driest continent in the world. It's not surprising therefore that we would have the world first in mandatory water efficiency labelling. This is going to welcomed I believe by the industry. It is certainly going to be welcomed by consumers, who will now have much better information available to them when they choose a new household appliance.
Reporter: Will there be any financial incentives? For example rebates for people who choose more water efficient appliances?
Kemp: Well these are very much a matter for the state to undertake. I know one state has already announced in the last few days a rebate scheme for the most efficient appliances. Other states may follow from this. This is a partnership between the Federal Government and the States. One of the great things that I'm sure every Australian welcomes is the fact that we have got all Australian levels of government now working closely together to make sure that we use our precious water resources much for efficiently in the future than we have in the past.
Reporter: And on the practicalities of it, I mean how will a consumer be able to tell? I think we have got energy efficiency ratings, we have got various stars and you can tell how efficient it is. Will it be a similar set up to that?
Kemp: It will. It will be modelled very much on the energy efficiency ratings so consumers will be able to choose appliances that are starred according to their water efficiency and that will now apply of course to all the relevant appliances. At the moment there is only a voluntary scheme in place and that means that the most efficient appliances have got an industry rating, but the less efficient appliances don't have any rating at all and so consumers are left in the dark when they purchase one of these products. Whether or not they are contributing to more efficient water or not.
Reporter: At the meeting was there any talk of, I mean one of the big issues is grey water, the use of grey water that's current as I understand illegal or it's not quite the right thing to do. Was there any talk of introducing measures like that?
Kemp: Yes there was. The use of treated sewage and grey water was discussed by the Ministers this morning and the Ministers decided that we should work to develop guidelines which could apply nationally for the use of grey water. It is clear that there is a lot of consumer support for the use of grey water is certain applications and for the use of properly treated sewage water, particularly in agricultural and gardening activities. Consumers need to have confidence that the regulation of grey water and treated sewage is appropriate and so the national guidelines will assist in that.
Reporter: And when will they be, when do you expect them to be in place?
Kemp: Well they will be worked on by officials and a working party over the next year.
Reporter: When will the water efficiency ratings be introduced? Is that scheme in place from now?
Kemp: That is due for introduction from early next year. I would anticipate introducing the relevant legislation into the Commonwealth parliament at one of the early sessions next year.
Reporter: An average household, do you know how much water they waste with things like washing machines and toilets and so on? Is there an estimate on water usage?
Kemp: Well what we estimate is that this will produce a 5 per cent improvement in the total domestic usage of water. Some of the appliances use a considerable amount of water. A lot of the water usage comes from showers, but of course also washing machines and dishwashers contribute very significantly.
Reporter: Is there a big difference in the range of appliances for the ones that are low consumption to the higher consumption?
Kemp: At the moment there is quite a significant difference in the most efficient and the least efficient appliances. Some appliances certainly would not qualify under any sort of rating scheme that we would put into place. So this is going to mean quite a significant improvement in the design of many of the appliances that householders have available to them.
Reporter: So it is a challenge to the industry as well, to clean up their act as much as it is to consumers?
Kemp: It is and I would like to just say that I think the industry will welcome this. Those who are responsible in the industry, who are producing water efficient appliances will certainly welcome a national scheme that will be available equally in every state and that will encompass all producers.
Reporter: Is there any sort of penalties for any manufacturers who don't comply with these rules?
Kemp: There would be penalties under the legislation and we will consider those as we design their legislation.
Reporter: You say the legislation will be introduced next year so we should see these items in the shop by 2005?
Kemp: Well hopefully the Federal legislation once introduced will pass through the parliament quickly and I would be hopeful that towards the end of next year or in early 2005 we will see these labels in place.
Reporter: So are al these savings prevised on the fact that I choose to buy this product?
Kemp: Well that's right. With the mandatory labelling of course, we will see a growing efficiency in the use and design of these products and we will also see of course a growing penetration of the market. More and more homes will have water efficient products in them and the projects that I've given, the figures that I've given are based on a consultants report that shows the likely take up in the market place of these new products.
Reporter: And will they be cost competitive or more expensive to have?
Kemp: Yes they will certainly be cost competitive. In fact the point needs to be made of course that there will be significant savings to consumers from more water efficient products. Were water is heated of course there will be electricity savings and there will also be savings in the water bills because less water will be used to achieve the same outcomes.
Reporter: Which is the state that has introduced the rebates for people who ...
Kemp: Victoria has introduced them or announced that they are going to introduce them.
Reporter: Would you urge other states for instance to follow that lead?
Kemp: Well I think that's a positive step and it will be up to other states to decide whether they follow that.
Reporter: And do you know what the rebates are like in Victoria?
Kemp: You will have to ask the Victorians.
Reporter: Are we water wasters?
Kemp: I think all Australian now realise that we have to be much more careful with water. We have used excessive amounts of water in the past both domestically and in agriculture. We are now finding that in our agriculture and industries we can be more productive with less water and there is no doubt at all that consumers want to be efficient in their use of water and this new mandatory scheme will give them the opportunity to be so.
Reporter: Is five per cent savings going to be significant enough?
Kemp: Well it is going to mean a saving of around about 87 gigalitres a year and that is a very significant amount. That is 87 thousand million litres of water saved a year.
Reporter: And that's Australia wide?
Kemp: And that's Australia wide yep.
Reporter: Don't Queensland and Western Australia have the most strict water restrictions at the moment? I mean we water our gardens twice a week? I mean there was horror in Victoria when there was um speculation that they might have restrictions? Is that right?
Kemp: Ah well Victoria has got tight water restrictions at the moment too.
Reporter: Year around at the moment?
Kemp: At the moment year round yes.
Reporter: Has New South Wales introduced ...
Kemp: New South Wales has recently introduced water restrictions so as far as I know the Ministerial meeting just came up and the general anecdotal information provided by Ministers was that there were water restrictions now applying in all states.
Reporter: Can you water your garden in the NSW and the ACT?
Kemp: I think in New South Wales the Minister said you could water the garden with a sprinkler at night time. In Victoria, in Melbourne now you can't use a sprinkler at all from my knowledge in gardens, for watering lawns and you can only water gardens by hand.