Smart Move

When it comes to water-saving advice, one national labelling system for products and services is proving a winner for consumers, retailers, manufacturers and service providers. “The Smart WaterMark has been gaining recognition as people realise the value of independent verification of water-saving claims,” says CEO of the scheme, Julian Gray.

Three years on from its consumer launch, the Smart Approved WaterMark is now clearly identified as the national tick of approval for water-saving products around the home and in the garden, and for a growing range of services dedicated to water efficiency. “It is fair to say that early on, with few products bearing the Mark, building its profile was difficult,” says Gray. “We now have more than 200 products and services listed, and that’s growing every quarter as new submissions are assessed.”

The product range found in hardware stores is drawn from several of the Mark categories: cleaning products, such as high pressure cleaners; grey water and rainwater harvesting systems, including downpipe diverters; gardening products, including mulches, wetting agents and soil enhancers; and irrigation equipment, such as soil moisture and rain sensors. “The Smart WaterMark also approves products inside the home, such as shower timers, toilet flush controllers and even grey water systems,” adds Gray.

In fact, the Hughie Sink won Smart Approved WaterMark’s Product of the Year in 2008. It is a simple moulded plastic insert that fits into the sink to collect grey water, enabling water to be re-used for pot plants or the garden instead of going down the drain. “The Smart WaterMark has clearly helped us get recognition in Australia and now in overseas markets, particularly the USA,” says Ian Alexander, from Hughie Products. “The award was also instrumental in getting distribution through Bunnings and other retailers in Australia. Most recently, we secured a contract with water utilities in Melbourne to supply Hughie sinks into low-income housing. “We certainly would not be where we are today without the Smart Approved WaterMark.”

In fact, Smart WaterMark approval is utilised by all the major water utilities in Australia and has unilateral support from both federal and state governments. It is linked in to water-saving policies, programs and rebate requirements, including Victoria’s H2OME programs and New South Wales’ Sustainability Policy. The manager for residential water efficiency projects with the Water Corporation in Western Australia, John Brennan, says that before any product is considered for inclusion in its Waterwise Rebate program, it must be first endorsed by Smart WaterMark.

“In all training for Waterwise Plumbers and Waterwise Garden Irrigation Installers, products with the Mark are recommended and promoted. The [Water] Corporation knows that because of the independent approval process, we can recommend all products with the Mark to our customers,” says Brennan.

Gaining the Smart WaterMark

Guidelines have been created to help manufacturers and businesses achieve the Smart Approved WaterMark for their products or services. An independent expert panel meets quarterly to assess submissions on four main criteria:

  • Water saving – does it reduce actual water use and/or use water more efficiently where there is a direct correlation between the use of the product and water savings?
  • Fit for purpose – is the appropriate use of the product or service consistent with supplied instructions and other documentation?
  • Meets regulations and standards – is the product or service of high quality and does it meet industry standards, as well as customer and community expectations, in relation to water use?
  • Environmentally sustainable – while satisfying the first three criteria, is it then environmentally sustainable and, despite claimed water savings, will it adversely affect the environment in other areas?One company to recognise Smart WaterMark’s marketing value early was Toro Australia Limited. Toro have used the Mark effectively, leveraging the Mark’s credibility to highlight the water efficiency of its rain and soil moisture sensors, dripper lines and spray irrigation systems. “We use the Mark on all printed and online publications, and our sales team uses the logo in its presentations. We have noticed increased sales of our products,” says Marjoleine Lloyd, Toro’s product and marketing services coordinator. “With growth in the scheme, there is a correlation in the growth in Toro’s approved products’ sales. We feel this can be attributed for a large part to the SAWM label. Promotion of the label is on the increase, and awareness amongst consumers about the label and the approved products and services is growing”.

Promoting the Mark

Awareness of the Mark has been building steadily, with support from the Australian government’s Water Smart Australia Programme allowing Smart WaterMark to market the scheme to the Australian public. The scheme has targeted marketing at home and environment expos, public relations activities and promotion through water utilities. The call to action in marketing activity is to drive consumers to the website.

“We use innovative tools like the Every Bucket Counts calculators to show people how much water they can save around the home and garden. The online calculators not only evaluate specific water savings for you, but highlight the embedded energy cost in water,” says Smart WaterMark’s Julian Gray.

The Smart WaterMark has also developed an information pack for retailers to help answer customers’ questions about the scheme, and to provide the tools to set up an in-store display to promote water-saving technology. A Newspoll Survey* conducted at the end of 2009 estimated that nearly six million Australians believe that the water situation in Australian cities is either extremely or very serious.

“Permanent water conservation measures are here to stay, not to mention the rapidly increasing cost of water, so water saving is going to remain high on the agenda. The Smart WaterMark will continue to help consumers, as well as provide a marketing opportunity for manufacturers and targeted promotion for retailers,” says Gray.

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