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What is the Water Label and why should you care?

There is a mandatory label coming that will show consumers the water efficiency of products, but where’s it coming from, who’s responsible for it and why is it important to you?

In the world of kitchens and bathrooms, a subtle yet significant shift is occurring. The Water Label may not have seen widespread attention – there’s every chance you’ve just read that term for the first time – but it will hold increasing importance for both consumers, retailers and installers alike in the coming years.

In fact, it’s highly likely that it will become a compulsory feature on all products that use water and anyone selling or installing those products will need to understand what it means in order to advise their customers.

In its most basic form, the water label is a concept similar to the energy ratings label found on appliances. Spearheaded by the Unified Water Label Association (UWLA) in the UK, the initiative aims to provide consumers with crucial information about the water efficiency of various products used in bathrooms and kitchens.

“The Unified Water Label serves as a marketing and sales tool designed to help consumers identify the water consumption of a product when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions,” explains Yvonne Orgill, the Managing Director of the UWLA.

“The simplicity, credibility, and honesty of this label provide consumers with essential information, similar to the familiar energy ratings label. While the primary focus is on water flow, recent iterations have incorporated an energy dial to highlight hot water energy usage too. The concept is not only about conservation but also about empowering consumers to make informed choices.”

For Orgill, the Unified Water Label has been two decades in the making. It was developed in the UK and has since been accepted across Europe as an industry standard with the count now standing at around 160 brands supporting the label with a database of 17,000 individual products.

In September, the UK government announced plans to make a water label compulsory on all water using household products. However, in a shock twist, it said it intended to develop its own label from scratch, essentially rejecting the existing scheme.

“I’m a firm believer that industry should be the driver of its own destiny and work with governments, not against governments,” Orgill said.  “So I was very disappointed. At a time where they’re cost cutting, they want to waste £27m of taxpayers’ money on a labelling scheme that would be identical to the one that the industry’s already driving forward.”

Politics aside – and whichever scheme eventually comes in – installers and retailers, the front end of communication with consumers, will need to be experts in what it means for their customers.

The challenge, however,  of the Water Label concept compared to the appliance energy equivalent is that the efficiency of water use is heavily influenced by user habits. Manufacturers have responded to this challenge with innovation and technology, ensuring that products deliver the desired performance while contributing to water and energy conservation, but convincing consumers that water-efficient products can maintain, or even enhance, performance while using less water is a hard sell.

“We need to educate consumers,” Orgill says. “Unless they change behaviour, you’re not saving one drop of water. And this is where the influence of the retailer, the showroom and the installer comes in.”

So when is the compulsory scheme likely to happen? The Government says 2025, but Orgill is skeptical. “Come on, let’s get real,” she says. “We’ve got to have stakeholder meetings to work out the technical criteria, the look of the label and how it’s going to go forward. And then we’ve got an election. Is the incoming government going to be supportive of wasting £27m?”

“That’s before a mandatory label by DEFRA is implemented and there’s got to be a transition period which could be between 18 months and two years. So that’s taking you up to 2027 at least.”

The drive towards a sustainable future is the number one issue that will dominate our lives over the next decades and for the UK government to hit all the environmental targets it has committed itself to, it will have to bring in dozens if not hundreds of mandatory schemes like the Water Label in a very short space of time.

But wherever and whenever they happen, it’s business owners that will feel the brunt of them and they need to be as prepared and as knowledgeable as possible.

For more information on the Unified Water Label go to: https://uwla.eu/

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