The WELS scheme is a government initiative that requires certain water-using products to be labelled for water efficiency.

Designed as a means to help Australian households save water and money, the scheme is underpinned by its own act and Australian Standard, so it is important that architects, engineers and specifiers are aware of their legal responsibilities when designing and incorporating water-using products into domestic and commercial building projects.

When supplying or selling products that fall under the scheme, architects, engineers and specifiers need to ensure that the products:

  • are registered with the WELS Regulator and the product has a WELS label; and
  • have their labels clearly visible to the customer while offered for sale.

Architects, engineers and specifiers are considered to be direct sellers of products if they:

  • include product sales as part of tendering or offering work in building and construction projects or in building refurbishment and renovation; or
  • are selling in any other capacity.

They will not be liable if a product is installed that has been sold to a customer by someone else, or has been bought by the customer through retail supply.

Inspection homes and units are considered a point of supply, so they must display WELS labelled products. To be legally sold with WELS products, they must also contain WELS compliant stock.

The WELS Act details a number of penalties that apply for:

  • failing to meet registration and labelling requirements
  • failing to meet minimum efficiency and performance requirements; and
  • misusing WELS standards and information.

WELS inspectors regularly check architects, engineers and specifiers in the field to ensure compliance with the WELS act. These inspectors have significant monitoring and investigative powers, and have the ability to:

  • impose significant fines
  • compel the withdrawal of a product or products from supply
  • deregister product/s; and
  • advertise convictions.

This provides a brief overview of the legal requirements for architects, engineers and specifiers under the WELS Scheme. A more detailed description of the scheme, including a discussion of specific labelling requirements, can be found on the Government's Water Rating website.