Outcome 4: Sustainable water legislation
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 2010 to 30 June 2011.
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 by requiring that comparative water efficiency information be provided to prospective purchasers of specified water-using products, setting mandatory minimum water efficiency standards in some instances and 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) and taps. Registration of flow controllers is optional.
From studies undertaken for the department, it is estimated that the current scheme will reduce domestic water use by more than 800 gigalitres between 2005 and 2021.
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 further development of the WELS scheme. Minimum water efficiency standards for washing machines and a new water use labelling requirement for the dryer mode of combination washer–dryers were finalised with the re-issue in June 2011 of Australian Standard AS/NZS 6400:2005 Water efficient products—rating and labelling.
Implementation of the independent review of the WELS scheme
The final report on the review of the WELS scheme, conducted by Dr Chris Guest (Guest Review), was completed on 30 June 2010 and tabled in Parliament on 13 October 2010. The EPHC considered the review’s recommendations at a meeting on 4 November 2010 and established a program to implement the recommendations. Significant progress has been made on evaluating alternative funding arrangements and establishing the first three-year strategic plan for the WELS scheme.
Amendments to the WELS Act that allow the minister to determine WaterMark certification as a requirement for WELS scheme product registrations received Royal Assent on 22 March 2011. The amendments implement 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: regulating plumbing product quality.
Since 1 July 2005, 16 790 product models have been registered under the WELS scheme. The number of product models registered in 2010–11 was 2 904.
As part of the scheme the department has implemented an active compliance inspection program, which involved visits to businesses in Australia that supply plumbing products and whitegoods. In 2010–11 over 100 inspections were conducted, and one warrant and three enforceable undertakings were executed. All inspections and follow-up enforcement actions were undertaken in accordance with the department’s compliance and enforcement policy.
One of the recommendations of the Guest Review was that a range of new of communications activities be developed and implemented, including training programs for retail sales staff.
WELS scheme stakeholder forums were held in Sydney and Melbourne on 9 December 2010 and 10 March 2011. These forums provided information on the consideration and implementation of the Guest Review recommendations and gave stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback. Retailer information sessions were held in Canberra and Sydney on 15 April and 27 May 2011.
To raise awareness of the water efficiency rating labels, nationwide advertising was placed in lifestyle magazines and major newspapers over January and February 2011 and in April 2011.
Due to an apparent higher rate of non-compliance among suppliers of WELS scheme products in Western Australia, advertising reminding suppliers of their legal obligations was placed in local newspapers in February 2011. Nationwide advertising was also placed in trade magazines over January to March 2011 to provide suppliers with advice on how to re-register WELS products.
During 2010–11 the department’s Water Information Line (1800 803 772) received more than 700 telephone inquiries regarding the WELS scheme. In addition, WELS staff provided individual assistance on product registrations in response to telephone and email enquiries from product manufacturers and suppliers.
The WELS Officials Group was established during the year in accordance with one of the Guest Review recommendations. The first meeting was held on 28 June 2011 to consider matters relating to the review of the WELS scheme, including the development of the first three-year strategic plan and alternative funding arrangements for the scheme.
The Guest Review also recommended that a WELS Advisory Group be formed to advise Australian, state and territory governments on a range of matters, including the three-year strategic plan. The WELS Advisory Group, comprising representatives from the whitegoods, plumbing, consumer, water and retailing sectors, held its first meeting on 28 June 2011.
The following resources relate to information referred to in Outcome 4, Sustainable Water Legislation.
Operational aspects of the WELS Act