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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 700

Mr ADAMS (7:47 PM) —The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill 2010 amends the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005. It allows the setting of additional criteria for registration of a product under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme.

The scheme was established by the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 and is part of the COAG agreed National Water Initiative. The WELS scheme is also supported by comprehensive state and territory legislation to ensure national coverage.

The WELS scheme’s objectives are to conserve water supplies by reducing water consumption, to provide information for purchasers of water use and water-saving products and to promote the adoption of efficient and effective water use and water-saving technologies. They are pretty good aims and objectives. The scheme aims to achieve these objectives by requiring that all water-using products specified under the scheme are registered and labelled to indicate their assessed water efficiency when offered for sale. The labels indicate the water efficiency rating of a product, on a scale from zero to six stars, with six stars being for the most efficient products.

The labels inform purchasing decisions in the same way as energy-rating labels on electrical appliances. Once enacted it is intended that the minister will determine the WaterMark Certification which will be required for the WELS registration. This will implement recommendation 2 of the House of Representatives inquiry report, Managing the flow: regulating plumbing product quality. The bill’s potential impact, however, is not limited to this proposed action.

Water conservation is becoming much easier with a number of gadgets—if I can use that term—coming onto the market as people try to save water as there is now a price on water use. It is certainly getting people to focus on how much water they use and to find products which can assist them. In fact, a number of people have brought pieces of equipment to my office to show what can be done to reduce water usage, particularly in our greywater systems.

For instance, a new idea was brought to me by Toby Meredith, who used to be one of my constituents and who has now moved into Hobart. He has been working with friends, David Fisher and Quentin Davenport, who invented the Drainwave. You may remember seeing them on The New Inventors on 18 November in 2009. They realised that although the installation of low-flow toilets has greatly reduced our water consumption, this positive outcome has had an unintended consequence: increasingly damaging our sewerage system, which is designed for significantly higher flush volumes.

This new idea, as I said, is called Drainwave, and it allows world’s best practice in flow fixtures to be installed without having any detrimental effect on plumbing systems. Using two inlet ports, the Drainwave collects greywater from general household use—sink, shower, washing machine et cetera—and combines this outside the house with blackwater from the toilet. When the water reaches 9.5 litres, the Drainwave self-activates to release a batch of water, which surges through the pipe network to the main sewer line to minimise blockages. The invention repeats the process between 16 and 34 times a day per person. It is an ingenious way of saving water, while making sure there are no blockages.

That is just one idea, and there are many others coming through to help people save water domestically. It is important that there are some regulations so as to know what exactly has been approved, for what use and to ensure the ideas perform in the way that they are supposed to and consumers get what they are paying for. The bill will help us achieve those goals. It would be good to see local government ensure that they start being more proactive in their water measurements. I know that there are some councils in Tasmania that still do not have water meters attached to their systems. Though the councils were the ones that failed to put those meters in place, there are now three authorities in the state which have to take over that work. It is hard to get the big picture of water use in different catchments and different cities without having some uniform measurements of water. We are still grappling with this in our country. We still need to do this, and there are all sorts of arguments being used as to why we should not. You only have to read the Mercury newspaper over the last couple of months to see that.

There are systems being developed to not only measure precipitation, water flows and domestic and industrial water use; there are also models one can use to measure different water uses and their runoffs, how much gets retained and how much is returned to the watertable. During the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industry and Resources inquiry into farming the future, we had representation from the Murray Irrigators Support Group regarding an invention by John Padman, called the ‘Padman Stop’, which is a 100 per cent watertight control structure used in conjunction with a fast watering system, also called low-energy irrigation, developed by the same inventor. As the report said, in the trial sites it was demonstrated that it is possible to control water application fairly accurately onto the bay, where it flows, and to achieve the highest efficiency possible. More research is being undertaken on application rates and frequency of irrigation. These sorts of schemes are vital knowledge that we need if we are to deal with the climate change scenarios that we have had presented to us.

These days you cannot just build a dam on a farm and think you have water storage. There are many aspects of water saving. They may include drip irrigation, measurement of soil water flows and even the takeup of water by different crops. So when we are considering these aspects of water savings, there must be an overall strategy to help all the different users of water to save or reuse the water they are allocated. There are many opportunities in this area, and into the future we must make sure that we have the proper processes and that people know what they are getting for their money. During the inspections of the committee, it was very interesting to note the amount of work going on in trying to minimise the effects of climate change, possible future droughts and any other natural or man-made changes to our lifestyles. We need to continue to reduce the amount of water we use for production or we will have to increase production with less water—great challenges for us as a nation. I am sure that we can get there by being innovative and using the intellects and the capacities that we have in our nation.

This legislation allows many of these inventions and new ideas to be assessed properly and given some efficiency tag that will allow inventions to gain value by being properly assessed for their efficiency. I support the bill.