What is WELS?
WELS is Australia's water efficiency labelling scheme that requires certain products to be registered and labelled with their water efficiency in accordance with the standard set under the national Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.
Why WELS ?
Choosing more efficient products helps Australia save water.
When WELS began in 2005, projections were made on the reduction in the demand for water and energy to the year 2021. Since then, a study completed in 2008 showed even greater savings than the 2005 projections. By 2021, Australians could save more than one billion dollars through reduced water and energy bills by simply choosing more efficient products.
By 2021 it is estimated that using water efficient products will help to:
- reduce domestic water use by more than 100,000 megalitres each year;
- save more than 800,000 megalitres (more water than Sydney Harbour); and
- reduce total greenhouse gas output by 400,000 tonnes each year - equivalent to taking 90,000 cars off the road each year.
Over one third of the water savings will come from more efficient showers, about 34 per cent from washing machines and 23 per cent from toilets and urinals.
By choosing to use more water-efficient products in the home, Australians will save water and reduce their water and energy bills.
Who manages WELS?
The WELS Regulator is established under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (the WELS Act) and is the First Assistant Secretary of the Environment Quality Division in the Department of Sustainability, Water, Population and Communities. The WELS Regulator is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the WELS Scheme and is committed to ensuring the integrity and credibility of the WELS Scheme. The WELS team is located within the Environment Quality Division of the department.
The Regulator has a wide range of powers and resources to make WELS work, including:
- Tasking inspectors to monitor compliance and/or investigate alleged breaches of the WELS Act
- Imposing significant fines and penalties for breaches of the WELS Act
- Compelling the withdrawal of a product from the market
- Deregistering a product
- Advertising convictions
The Regulator has the option to use administrative actions and education, as an alternative to legal action, to help manufacturers, importers and retailers to meet their legal obligations under the WELS Act. Where a cooperative solution is not possible, the Regulator can act to impose penalties and enforcement provisions outlined in Part 7 of the WELS Act.
What are the WELS products?
The water-using WELS products are:
- tap equipment
- flow controllers (optional)
- toilet (lavatory) equipment
- urinal equipment
- clothes washing machines
It is voluntary to label flow controllers, and a minimum water efficiency standard also applies to toilets and washing machines. This means you cannot supply toilets that have a higher flow rate than 5.5 litres per average flush volume, and washing machines that are less than 3 stars for a machine 5kg or more capacity, or less than 2.5 stars for a machine less than 5kg capacity.
Waterless urinals are not currently included under WELS.
The WELS scheme excludes second-hand products and products imported into Australia for personal use.
WELS scheme review
The WELS scheme completed its fifth year of operation in 2009-10. Consistent with the requirements of section 76 of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005, an independent review of the scheme's first five years of operation was undertaken. The review was required to consider the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the scheme and made recommendations for its improvement. For more information about the review see:
Key dates in WELS history
From 1 July 2006, the WELS scheme became mandatory. Grace periods applied to WELS products imported or manufactured before 1 July 2006.
For these products: unlabelled tap ware, showers, lavatory and urinal equipment may be retailed until 31 December 2006 and unlabelled dishwashing and clothes washing machines were allowed to be sold from manufacture/import until 31 December 2007.
All new products – that is, where the product has been manufactured or imported into Australia on or after 1 July 2006 – must now be registered and labelled before they can be sold.
From 1 November 2011, a new WELS standard took effect. It includes all current amendments (1-5) made to AS/NZS 6400:2005 Water efficient products - Rating and labelling. For more information see:
Complying with WELS
To date, WELS scheme compliance and enforcement activities have focussed on educating industry about its legal obligations under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (WELS Act).
Today, compliance activities are underway with investigators in the field Australia-wide and non-compliances against the WELS Act are being assessed and appropriate action taken.
All non-compliances with the WELS scheme, including allegations, are assessed in accordance with the Compliance Enforcement Policy of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
WELS has a range of compliance responses at its disposal which escalate according to the severity of the non-compliance, or if non-compliant activity continues.
Generally, education and/or warnings are used in response to first and less serious non-compliances. This ensures that suspected offenders become aware of legislative requirements.
For serious or continuing non-compliances, enforcement powers under the WELS Act may be used.
For more information see