Because of droughts and water shortages over recent years in Australia, more and more focus has been put on saving water. Government initiatives to help reduce water wastage have been many and varied, ranging from state-wide water restrictions to public education campaigns. One initiative in Victoria involves a shower head exchange scheme, in which it is possible to trade in your old, inefficient shower head for a more efficient version.
Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) and shower heads
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme was introduced on 1 July 2006 to regulate water efficiency, and to keep consumers informed. Under the scheme, all shower heads sold in Australia must carry a WELS rating which indicates how efficient they are in terms of the amount of water they use. Shower heads that use 9L per minute of water or less are rated at three stars. A standard, traditional zero star rating shower head uses between 15 – 25L per minute. Over the course of a year, this can add up to a significant amount of water.
As an example of how much of a difference a water efficient shower head makes, replacing a 25L shower head with a 7L shower head will save 180L over a ten minute shower. If two people shower that way every day for a year, this would equate to a reduction of about 131,400L per year (360L x 365 days = 131, 400L). To put that in perspective, most water cooler jugs contain 15L. You would need 8,760 jugs to keep all that saved water in, and if they were stacked top to bottom, would reach roughly 3.5 kms into the sky.
Power savings with efficient shower heads
Not only do efficient shower heads help save water, but they also help to cut down on your fuel use. Because you're using less hot water, your hot water system doesn't have to work as hard. Depending on what sort of hot water system you have, this may help save gas or electricity, and in turn reduce CO2 emissions. Hot water systems can be expensive to run too, so the savings on your bill mean that even if you’re renting, a water efficient shower head is likely to be a good idea.
Free water efficient shower heads
In Victoria, there is currently a government initiative in place that allows you to swap your old shower head with a new water-efficient version. Essentially you can complete a form, go to a store with your old showerhead and swap it for a three star rated model. For more information on eligibility criteria, contact your local water corporation.
Other states have slightly different arrangements; Sydney Water customers, for example, are able to pay just $88 (or $110 on weekends) under the WaterFix scheme to have a qualified plumber install water saving devices and check for leaks. This price includes a shower head replacement. Other states and territories have various other arrangements.
To find out what initiatives are on offer in your state or territory, visit your state or territory government's website.