By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: The federal government has embarked on a national educational roadshow for its new Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme to educate retailers and suppliers about their obligations under the new water efficiency labelling regime, which will commence on 1 July.

The Department of the Environment and Heritage today held its second WELS seminar for retailers and suppliers of water-using products, including dishwashers and washing machines, in Sydney after commencing the national campaign in Brisbane yesterday.

The roadshow will move to Melbourne tomorrow, and Perth and Adelaide next week. According to the public affairs director for the WELS scheme, Dale Starr, a major goal of the seminars is to enable retailers to promote the scheme to consumers.

“We have started our communications campaign by first talking to manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, but we also have consumer-facing promotional activity planned,” he said.

“Retailers are the experts in point of sale, so they will need to talk to the consumers – they will play a key role in educating consumers about this new system. We will be working closely with retailers to get the message out there in the coming months.”

The Department is also seeking to encourage suppliers and manufacturers of products falling under the WELS criteria to get their products tested under the new rating system, which will be mandatory from July.

“We really want suppliers to know that if they haven’t had their products rated yet then there is still time, it’s not too late. We are not trying to be ogres, but we want to get people in and do it,” said Starr.

Under the WELS scheme, a broad range of water-using products including electrical appliances and plumbing fittings will be required to undergo independent testing for water efficiency, with a rating out of six stars awarded – much like the existing energy star rating for electrical appliances.

WELS will replace the voluntary 5A water rating system, which was not indepenently tested and has been heavily criticised by suppliers in the washing machine category for its inadequate testing criteria.

“The 5A rating system did not have a scientific basis and it was not independently tested, but WELS is mandatory and we will test every product for efficiency at independent labs like the CSIRO and other commercial facilities,” said Starr.
Most products with high water efficiency are expected to achieve three or four stars out of six – for now, higher ratings seem unattainable.