29 March 2018
Posted by: Evolution
Time to read: 4 min
While those poetic lines sound drastic and unrealistic for us lucky Kiwis who live in a country braided with clean rivers, the reality is that water can become exhausted and contaminated very quickly. This summer saw Canterbury experiencing drought as temperatures soared and popular Central Otago swimming areas became unsafe because of elevated levels of toxic bacteria.
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) rating system is a key tool in making informed choices about the tapware and appliances in our homes, which in turn helps us stay in control of our water usage without compromising comfort.
The purpose of the WELS label is to help consumers choose products that use less water but still provide a satisfactory level of quality and performance.
The label provides information on a product’s water consumption and efficiency to help you compare products, much like the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) star rating helps consumers make informed choices on appliances, like fridges.
We use water throughout our homes, including taps, toilets, showers, dishwashers and washing machines. The flow rate of each output will vary and the difference can add up quickly.
For example, let’s compare a 3-star shower which flows at 9L/min and a 4-star shower which flows at 6L/min. For a typical family of four who averages an 8 minute-shower per person, the amount of water saved by the 3-star shower is estimated at 70,000 litres, while the 4-star would be a whopping 105,000 litres*.
There are two big reasons to care. First, saving water is good for our environment and future. And second, even if you’re not already on the sustainability bandwagon, saving water can save you money.
Take the previous example of the family of four. By choosing the 3-Star shower, the family could save $210/year and by choosing the 4-star, $315/year.
Regardless of whether you are charged for water consumption, wise water use will help you save on power. According to the EECA, around a third of a household’s energy bill goes to heating water, 80% of which gets used in the shower.
The WELS labels are designed to easily relay information. It displays two key pieces of information: A star rating indicating relative water efficiency and a water consumption or water flow figure.
Each product label displays a star rating out of six. The more stars, the more water efficient the flow.
The consumer can rely on the accuracy of this information since it’s been determined by the independent Australia/New Zealand Standard for Water efficient products. Incidentally, a product can still be sold in New Zealand if it fails any of the tests, but it must carry a zero-star-rating.
And added incentive to choose water-efficient outputs is that high star ratings get rewarded on the New Zealand Green Building Council Homestar tool. The category, Water Use in the Home, can earn up to ten points for water efficient fixtures and appliances, which comprises almost ten percent of the overall Homestar score, adding value to the home by reflecting its level of efficiency and sustainability.
The WELS standards have been readily adopted into the market so the variety of tapware and appliances that are rated WELS 3 and above offers the consumer a wide array of design options, including shiny chrome, aged brass and the trendy matte black.
And if the style of tapware you fell in love with before reading this article does not rate, you can still choose it without compromising water efficiency. Installing a flow restrictor into the tapware is both easy and cheap.
*Assumptions: each family member showers for 8 minutes per day, at an average water price of $2.99/kL (the national average price reported in the 2014–15 Australian Bureau of Statistics Water Account).
For a related article, read "The Black and White on Gray-Water Recycling"