This page provides information for consumers wanting to buy a new water-using product and retailers who sell water-using products.
The New Zealand Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) is designed to provide information, through labelling at the point of sale, to consumers buying products that use water. The labelling provides clear information on a product’s water efficiency and water consumption in a standardised form, and helps you to choose products that use less water but are still functional.
The WELS applies to six product classes:
- clothes washing machines
Recent changes to the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme
In August 2017 Government has agreed changes to the water efficiency labels on water-using equipment.
New regulations passed by Cabinet will update the design of these labels to the joint New Zealand-Australia 2016 standard AS/NZS 6400:2016. The previous standards were introduced in New Zealand in 2010.
These regulations are about labelling only and do not introduce any other requirements for water-using equipment.
From 1 October 2017 manufacturers and retailers can meet WELS requirements by following the old or new standards. From 1 October 2019, the new standard only will apply. This two-year transition period is to allow industry to phase out the old labels.
Information on this website will be changed to reflect the new regulations.
It’s important not to waste water, particularly in parts of the country that experience periodic water shortages. Conserving water can reduce your water charges if you live in an area that uses water meters, and choosing a product that uses less heated water will help to reduce your energy bills. In other words, using water more efficiently has both economic and environmental benefits.
There are many factors that influence your decision when buying a new product such as cost, colour, brand, style, performance, reputation, recommendations and past experience. Saving water and saving on your water bills can be a deciding factor in determining the type of product you buy.
If you're about to buy a water-using product find out first how WELS water efficiency ratings can save you money and help the environment. It’s simple – the more stars on the WELS label, the more water efficient the product is.
The WELS label displays two key pieces of information:
- a star rating indicating relative water efficiency
- a water consumption or water flow figure.
Each product label displays a star rating out of six. The more stars the more water efficient.
At the moment, showers will only have a maximum rating of three stars, while the other product types can achieve up to six stars. This is because New Zealand and Australia do not yet have a laboratory test to ensure that very low-flow shower products will deliver acceptable performance.
All WELS labels have a water consumption or flow figure in:
- litres per minute (for showers and taps)
- litres per wash (for clothes washing machines and dishwashers)
- litres per flush (for lavatories and urinals). Labels on lavatories display figures for litres per half flush, full flush, and average flush (the average of four half flushes and one full flush).
Water pressure systems
The water efficiency rating of showers and taps depends on if they were designed for use in mains pressure systems or for use in areas of low or unequal pressure. WELS labels on showers and taps indicate the water pressure system they are intended for use in. Labels on the other product types will not have this information.
Meeting the Standard
AS/NZS 6400 is the Australia/New Zealand Standard for Water efficient products – Rating and labelling. It sets out the tests that must be performed on products to determine the information for the WELS label. The Standard requires performance tests, so that products tested for water efficiency will also be tested for functionality. A product is still allowed to be sold in New Zealand if it fails any of the tests, but it must carry a zero star-rated WELS label.
Australian WELS labels
Products with Australian WELS labels are already imported for sale in New Zealand. The New Zealand WELS regulations allow this to continue. The Australian label is similar in appearance to the New Zealand label. The star rating and water consumption information on an Australian WELS label is the same as it would be on a New Zealand label for any given model – this information is determined through the same testing regime outlined in AS/NZS 6400.
The main difference between the Australian and New Zealand schemes is that in Australia products must pay a registration fee and be listed in an online national database of products and their ratings. New Zealand consumers can use the Australian database to compare products which are sold in both Australia and New Zealand.
See Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme [Australian Government website]
Water-using products which are sold only in New Zealand will not be on this database.
The WELS labels are also similar in appearance to the energy-rating labels on appliances. Dishwashers and clothes washing machines should carry both labels because they use both energy and water.
How, where and when are the labels displayed?
The WELS applies only to new products and not second-hand products.
Products will be labelled when supplied or offered for supply (either physically displayed or available to buy online). This will mainly be in the form of the standard WELS label but in some instances you may see a text alternative to the label for unpackaged products. More information on labelling requirements for retailers can be found on below.
Products imported or manufactured before 1 April 2011 were not required to be labelled until 1 April 2013. All products imported or manufactured on or after 1 April 2011 require labels.
Who must display the labels?
The scheme applies to the supply or offers to supplyFootnote 1 (either physically displayed or available to buy online) of new clothes washing machines, dishwashers, lavatories, showers, taps and urinal equipment. It does not apply to second-hand goods, or products that are for export and that will not be sold in New Zealand. New Zealand importers and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring any products they import or manufacture are tested and meet the labelling requirements.
Retailers also have a role to play in ensuring products they display and supply comply with the labelling requirements. Anyone supplying or offering to supply a product covered by the WELS must ensure products clearly display a legible and applicable WELS label and in such a way that it is clear which product the label applies to.
As defined by the Fair Trading Act 1986, “supply” includes gift, sale, exchange, lease, hire, or hire purchase.
When did the WELS go into effect?
All products manufactured in New Zealand or imported into New Zealand on or after 1 April 2011 must comply with the WELS regulations, and from 1 April 2013 all existing stock must also be labelled.
Compliance and enforcement
Manufacturers, importers and retailers of WELS products in New Zealand will have responsibilities under the WELS regulations. The regulations state that a person must not supply or offer to supply the regulated products unless they comply with the regulations.
The Commerce Commission is responsible for enforcement of Consumer Information Standard Regulations under the Fair Trading Act 1986, including the WELS regulations. Offences under the Fair Trading Act may attract fines of up to $200,000 for a company and $60,000 for an individual per offence.
Anyone, including consumers and competitors, is able to inform the Commerce Commission if they suspect breaches.
Water-using equipment must, when supplied or offered for supply, have the following displayed in a way that is easily readable, clearly visible and attributable to the equipment:
Clothes washing machines
|Unpackaged clothes washing machines and dishwashers must either carry their WELS label on the product itself or on both sides of a swing tag affixed to the product.|| |
If the product is packaged, the WELS label for that product must be displayed on the packaging.
For products offered for sale online, either a reproduction of the product’s WELS label must be displayed (which can be scaled so long as it is still easily readable) or text information may be used which:
The stated wash programme for clothes washing machines and dishwashers must also be displayed online.
The WELS label for these products must either:
The WELS label supplements other government labels that help purchasers choose products that will genuinely benefit the environment and can often result in lower running costs.
Energy rating labels provide consumers with information on how much electricity an appliance uses in a year, plus a star rating to show how energy efficient it is.
Find out more at Energy rating labels [EECA webite]
Energy Star is the global mark of energy efficiency. It is typically awarded to the top 25 per cent most energy efficient appliances, home electronic products and office equipment in each category.
Find out more at Energy star [EECA website]
Vehicle fuel economy labels help consumers know how much fuel a vehicle uses and how much it costs to run. In New Zealand, the label must be displayed on new and late model used vehicles available for sale by registered motor vehicle traders and on internet listings.
Find out more at Vehicle fuel economy labels [EECA energywise website]
Life cycle ecolabels are based on the most significant measurable life cycle impacts of a product group. In addition to energy or water efficiency, these typically include reduction of toxic materials, post-consumer waste reduction, recyclability, and sustainable resource harvesting and manufacture. These are also called “Type I” or “ISO 14024” ecolabels.
Examples can be found on the Global ecolabelling network website
Environmental Choice New Zealand is New Zealand’s voluntary Type 1 ecolabel. Initiated and endorsed by the New Zealand Government, Environmental Choice recognises genuine moves made by manufacturers to reduce the environmental impacts of their products and provides a credible and independent guide for consumers who want to purchase products that are better for the environment.
Find out more on the Environmental Choice New Zealand website
Eco-labels: a short guide for New Zealand producers [PDF 119.6 KB] [Landcare Research website]
Green marketing and carbon claims[Commerce Commission New Zealand website]
Includes: Guidelines for green marketing, and Fair Trading Act 1986 - Guidelines for carbon claims.
For general enquiries about WELS contact Consumer Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (04) 474 2750
Consumer information standards for water efficiency [Consumer Affairs website]
Australian scheme: Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme [Australian Government website]
How to be environmentally sustainable [Business.govt.nz website]