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Water efficiency labelling leads to water savings, study finds

Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme helped save more than 100 GL of water in 2017-18, according to a new report.

The WELS scheme was introduced by the Federal Government in 2006 to help consumers understand the water efficiency of appliances and fittings. It labels products using a six-star rating, which is displayed at the point of sale.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), assessed the effect of the scheme to date and predicted its impact to the end of 2036-37.

It found the greatest proportion of the 112 GL saved came from water-efficient taps, followed by showers and washing machines. The use of WELS rated products also led to an average saving of $42 per person.

Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud said the scheme helped Australians save water without reducing their standard of living.

“Knowledge is power, and the WELS water ratings give consumers the power to save,” he said.

“This is an important part of Australia's urban water management and the evaluation shows it is helping families, with savings expected to grow.”

The researchers predicted water savings would increase to 185 GL in 2026 and 231 GL by 2036, but said more needs to be done to conserve water.

“.... As the population grows, total water demand will rise (despite lower per capita use) and it will be necessary to either reduce per capita use further or augment water supplies,” the report said.

“Given the projected increase in demand from WELS labelled products, governments across Australia may wish to consider new measures that would complement the existing scheme in order to achieve additional water savings.”

They said this could be in the form of incentive programs run by utilities, new regulations on building or plumbing, or raising the minimum water efficiency standards under WELS.

“Ideally, future work on complementary measures or minimum standards will bring equity considerations to the fore, and capture the potential for the WELS scheme to play an even larger role in alleviating the hardship resulting from high utility bills for society’s least wealthy.”

Read the full report here.