The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme (WELS) was established in 2005 as a national instrument to encourage more efficient household water use and to reduce demand for potable water by informing consumers about water efficiency at the point of sale.
Products regulated by WELS
The fixtures, fittings and appliances that are regulated by the WELS scheme are showers, taps (excluding over a bath), flow controllers, toilets, urinals, dishwashers, washing machines and combination washer dryers.
Regulated products must be registered with WELS and labelled with their water efficiency information whenever they are supplied or offered for supply in Australia—including when they are offered as a fixture or fitting in a new building or unit.
If you are a builder or developer, you have obligations under this scheme that are enforceable by law. Plumbers may also have responsibility for WELS compliance if they supply the products they install.
When does it apply?
WELS legislation applies to anyone who supplies regulated products in Australia. If you supply regulated products in a new building or renovation, you must meet the same requirements as retailers selling products to consumers.
Builders and plumbers are considered suppliers under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (WELS Act) if they:
- supply WELS regulated products as a fixture or fitting in a new building or unit offered for sale
- supply WELS regulated products as part of tendering or quoting in building, construction, refurbishment or renovation projects
- supply WELS regulated products as part of installation or repair work.
Examples - who's responsible?
A builder offers a spec home for sale to the public. The builder is responsible for ensuring all WELS regulated products are registered with WELS and labelled correctly with their water efficiency when the home is shown to prospective purchasers. If this requirement is not met, the builder can be subject to legal penalties or compliance and enforcement action.
A plumber has a customer that would like a new toilet installed to replace a broken one. The plumber supplies and installs a toilet for the customer but the toilet is not registered with WELS. Because the plumber has supplied the product, the plumber is responsible for making sure the product is registered with WELS and providing the correct water rating information to the customer. If this requirement is not met, the plumber can be subject to legal penalties or compliance and enforcement action.
Requirements of the WELS scheme
The WELS scheme legally requires you to only supply WELS regulated products that are registered with WELS and correctly labelled.
Before you buy, advertise or supply WELS regulated products check they are registered by searching the WELS registration database using the model name or the WELS registration number.
If the product is not registered, choose a different product or talk to your supplier about who will register it before supply. You can register a product if you have permission from the manufacturer. You will also need a valid WaterMark certificate and product test reports.
You cannot legally supply an unregistered WELS regulated product in Australia.
WELS regulated products that are offered for supply in Australia must be correctly labelled with their water rating information, in accordance with Australian Standard 6400:2016. This standard can be downloaded for free.
Labelling requirements apply to regulated products offered or displayed in:
- display homes or suites
- Inclusions lists (online and in print).
You can meet requirements in display units by providing labels on an inclusions board located near the unit’s entrance.
Benefits of WELS
Sustainability is a strong selling point for many Australian consumers. By meeting the requirements of the WELS scheme you can help your customers to conserve water and save money on their water and energy bills.
Research conducted in 2014 and 2015 found that:
- 87 per cent of consumers recognised the water rating label.
- over half of consumers said they use the label when deciding which product to buy.
- by 2030, the WELS scheme is expected to cut national household utility bills by over $2 billion per year and save more than 200 gigalitres of drinking water annually.
If you do not comply with your obligations, penalties can be imposed. These can include infringement notices, civil penalties or criminal prosecution. Court-imposed penalties of up to $13,320 for an individual or $66,600 for a corporation can apply for each unregistered, unlabelled or incorrectly labelled product.
Helping you comply
WELS inspectors are willing to undertake site inspections and educational visits to help you understand and comply with registration and labelling requirements. Where non-compliance is detected, inspectors will assist you to become compliant. WELS inspectors will always attempt to resolve non-compliance cooperatively before escalating to an enforcement response.
The WELS team can assist you with meeting your requirements.
WELS scheme online course
This free 45 minute course is designed to help you understand the WELS scheme and how it is helping Australians save water and money. It was created for plumbers, builders, building designers, developers and others who have a legal obligation under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005. It is also open to anyone who wants to learn about the scheme and water efficiency.
This article was originally published on 23/11/2017