The purpose of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme is to reduce water use, support consumers to make informed choices about the water efficiency of products they purchase, and encourage the uptake of water efficient products.
Since the scheme began, we have regularly reviewed how effective and efficient it is at delivering on these goals.
Through research and evaluation we can:
- be confident in the reliability and usefulness of the scheme
- ensure we are delivering scheme outcomes at the lowest regulated cost to industry
- estimate how well businesses are meeting their obligations to register and label products
- understand our consumer audience and be sure that we are successfully reaching them.
An independent review of the WELS scheme is conducted every 5 years, in line with the requirements of section 76 of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.
The second independent review of the WELS scheme was completed in June 2015.
This review found that the scheme is appropriate, highly effective, and largely efficient and cost-effective in meeting its objectives:
- delivering water savings at far lower cost than alternative water supply augmentation measures
- providing effective and valued consumer information at extremely low marginal costs
- avoiding regulatory and administrative duplication
- driving technological development and improvement.
Our WELS Strategic Plan 2016–19 was produced in response to recommendations of this review.
The first independent review of the WELS scheme was completed in October 2010.
Research into consumer awareness of the WELS scheme found that consumers actively use the water efficiency information provided under the scheme when making purchasing decisions.
- 87% of consumers recognised the water rating label and over half said they used the information on the label in their decision-making process.
- 83% of consumers thought the WELS scheme was ‘very’ or ‘quite’ credible and said they have confidence in the information provided.
Consumers actively look for water efficiency labelling on various types of water-using products.
The research found that water efficiency is the highest or second highest consideration for consumers in their purchasing decisions for products regulated under the WELS scheme.
An evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts of the WELS scheme estimated that in 2017 the scheme:
- saved 112 billion litres of water
- reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents
- saved consumers over $1 billion on utility bills.
By 2026, the scheme is expected to save 185 billion litres of water per year.
By 2036, savings are expected to reach 230 billion litres of water and over $2.6 billion on utility bills per year. The cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will be over 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.
The evaluation built on a 2015 analysis and found that, with several more years of evidence, savings are equal to or greater than earlier estimates.
Costs, impacts and value of the scheme
The WELS scheme was created during a drought in Australia, as a way to support consumers wishing to reduce water use and a low-cost way to contribute to the security of water supplies to urban and regional communities.
Since the WELS scheme was first created, we have regularly reviewed the potential and actual effects of the scheme on industry — including the impact of introducing our current cost recovery model in 2013.
Our reporting on costs, impacts and value of the scheme has included:
- Cost Recovery Impact Statement (2014) documenting the WELS scheme cost recovery arrangement and demonstrated compliance with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines. This CRIS was prepared for operations from 15 September 2013 to 30 June 2014, when we began recovering 80% of operating costs from industry registration fees.
- Cost Effectiveness Analysis of WELS (2008) examining the cost effectiveness and benefits of WELS, compared to other urban water management schemes and programs.
Product research and compliance monitoring
We have also commissioned research exploring the costs, benefits and opportunities of regulating different products under the WELS scheme, and conducted the compliance-related investigations described below.
In 2010, we commissioned a study of the supply chain for products affected by the WELS scheme.
Results detailed in the report were based on:
- customs data for imports and exports
- interviews with stakeholder organisations and firms in the supply chains for regulated products
- secondary sources of data.
This study was designed to help us gain a better understanding of how regulated products are supplied in Australia, from manufacture to end use.
To ensure compliance and maintain the integrity and confidence in the scheme, the WELS Act requires the monitoring of products for compliance with the relevant requirements.
Check testing for 10 showers and 8 toilets was conducted in 2012, in compliance with this monitoring requirement.