All’s WELS

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth. Droughts are frequent and prolonged, rainfall in many areas is less predictable, seasons are changing and our population is increasing. Together, all those factors are putting increasing pressure on our water supplies. Our water resources are limited, which is why it’s crucial to preserve them as much as possible. Each and every household – and business – must do everything it can to that end. That’s been made easier by the introduction of the WELS Scheme.

WELS is Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme. It was implemented on July 1, 2006, to assist buyers in comparing products that consume significant volumes of water. Not all water-consuming products are included though. The water-using WELS products are showers, tap equipment, flow controllers (optional), toilet (lavatory) equipment, urinal equipment, clothes washing machines and dishwashers. The WELS website estimates that by using water efficient products between now and 2021, we can reduce domestic water use by five per cent, or 87,200 megalitres each year and save about 610,000 megalitres (more water than in Sydney Harbour). Water-efficient washing machines may use only one-third the water of an inefficient model. An old-style single-flush toilet could use up to 12 litres of water per flush against an average of 3.1 litres per flush used by a standard dual flush toilet. A standard showerhead may use up to 25 litres of water per minute, whereas a water-efficient showerhead might use as little as seven litres per minute, or less than a third.

All very well. But how does that help you as a retailer? In 2009, the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts commissioned a tracking survey aimed at investigating consumer and industry awareness of the WELS scheme. The research was conducted in all states and territories and in metropolitan and regional areas. Both household and non-household consumers associated a high level of credibility with the WELS scheme, and although the results didn’t state it, the obvious conclusion is that WELS accreditation can influence sales.

These were the results of the survey:

  • 92% of both groups indicated that the water star ratings assisted them in their purchase decisions.
  • 91% of household consumers and 93% of non-household consumers indicating the water efficiency labels were influential in decision making on purchases of water-using appliances, and
  • 78% of household consumers and 68% of non-household consumers indicated that water efficiency labels are credible.

Retail education

Retail staff talk to customers, manage displays and showrooms, and promote products. They are a vital link in ensuring that retailers meet their obligations under the WELS Act. Retailers are encouraged to educate their staff about their obligations under the WELS Act. The following tips are suggested:

1) Talking to customers. Your staff will need to be able to explain to customers that WELS is an Australian Government water efficiency labelling scheme that can save customers water and money. The WELS label displays two key pieces of information:

    • water-efficiency star rating (the more stars the better) and
    • water consumption or flow figures (the lower the number the better).
      The ratings and consumption/flow figures are determined through rigorous independent laboratory testing. Products are put through their paces to ensure that they don’t use more water than they are supposed to. Rebates may be offered on some WELS rated products. Local councils and water authorities may be offering rebates to people who buy WELS-registered products with specific star ratings. You may wish to contact these organisations to see if your customers are eligible.2) It’s illegal to sell unregistered products. You can check if a product is WELS registered by searching the WELS registered products database (http://search.waterrating.com.au/) or by asking your suppliers. If you encounter problems with non-compliant products, contact WELS at wels@nullenvironment.gov.au or call 1800 218 478 to discuss. WELS inspectors are checking that retailers are meeting WELS requirements.

      3) Make sure that labels are legally displayed.

    • If the WELS product is displayed in its packaging, display the label on the packaging
    • If the WELS product is displayed outside its packaging, display the label on the product or attached to the product by a double-sided swing tag.
    • If the product is displayed as part of a showroom display, display the label on the product or include information from the label (star rating and water consumption/flow rating) next to the product, e.g. on a price tag.4) Advertising and promotion must meet legal requirements. All material promoting a WELS product (product specifications, brochures, magazines, advertising, websites etc.) must include the WELS label or the water consumption information from the label. If the label is reproduced it may be scaled down in size as long as it remains readable to normal vision. Free text must describe a product’s:
    • water efficiency star rating and
    • water consumption figure (e.g. WELS 3 star 7.5L/m).If you are worried that you are not complying with the WELS Act or would like more information, contact WELS at wels@nullenvironment.gov.au.

      Information for this story was taken from the WELS website www.waterrating.gov.au.

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