The WaterMark Certification Scheme Is Ultimately About Your Health
The WaterMark Certification Scheme is not voluntary. It is a mandatory and legally enforcible certification scheme covering Australia for all plumbing and drainage products. Ultimately it is about guaranteeing community health and safety.
Bear in mind the water you drink, cook with and wash in can conceivably transmit waterborne diseases if the water becomes contaminated. This is a major reason why all products such as taps you drink from must be WaterMark approved.
Every product that is intended for use in all plumbing and drainage installations must undergo a risk assessment to identify any potential risk of manufacturing faults and installation failures.
Looking for the WaterMark
When purchasing any new plumbing products for your home such as taps or toilets you must check that the products you are buying or installing are certified for use in Australia?
Certified products are easy to identify by the WaterMark certification trademark logo, as illustrated below. The WaterMark logo must appear on a product or its packaging, in addition to its WaterMark licence number and the applicable product specification.
Regrettably, many people go online to buy “cheap” plumbing products especially taps. Few of these taps have WaterMark Certification and potentially can be manufactured with large amounts of lead in the metal.
Deplorably there are many companies in Australia who think they can ignore their responsibilities to obey the law where WaterMark Certification is required in the pursuit of profits. Online sales of what are technically illegal plumbing products are rampant. There are advertisements all over social media promoting the purchase and DIY installations of non WaterMark approved products such as My Bidet Australia.
The WaterMark Certification Scheme is administered by the Australian Building Codes Board or ABCB as part of the Plumbing Code of Australia or PCA.
With all of the issues surrounding COVID-19 earlier this year, the ABCB along with the QBCC and Queensland Health became very concerned about online purchasing of bidet seats, tap, shower, toilet and urinal products on eBay and other online stores.
This resulted in the ABCB rolling out theLOOK for the WaterMarkcampaign. The campaign aims to improve compliance with the PCA, by promoting the WaterMark Certification Scheme to increase the understanding of why products must have WaterMark.
The LOOK for the WaterMarkcampaign will be implemented as a succession of WaterMark promotions with three key messages:
WaterMark certified products are all marked with the WaterMark trademark logo, WaterMark licence number and applicable specification.
Plumbing work must be undertaken by licensed plumbers who are legally required to install only WaterMark certified products.
How to search the WaterMark product database to locate and verify all WaterMark certified products.
What is WaterMark?
The video below explains exactly what the WaterMark Certification Scheme is and why we have it to protect your health.
What Plumbing Products Require WaterMark?
The video below explains exactly which plumbing products are required to have WaterMark Certification and how you will know if the product has been certified.
How to Use The WaterMark Product Database
The video below explains how to search for plumbing products WaterMark Certification on the WaterMark Product Database so that you can verify if the product has been certified.
Responsibility for Supply & Installation of WaterMark Approved Products
As Licensed Plumbers, it has always been illegal for us here at Whywait Plumbing to install non WaterMark approved products and non-conforming plumbing products. Since 2017 it has been illegal for anyone to supply a non-conforming plumbing product.
At Whywait Plumbing we have always complied with the laws that pertain to plumbing products. We will notify the QBCC immediately whenever we discover non-conforming, non-compliant illegal plumbing products installed anywhere.
Ultimately all of these laws are for your protection, safety and the security of community health.
It is illegal to install a douche spray or bidet spray in Queensland unless it complies with AS/NZS 3500.1:2018 clause 12.2.3 below which classifies bidet toilet seats and douche sprays at toilet seat douches.
12.2.3 Toilet seat douches – Where the douche outlet, in all positions, is at least 25 mm above the overflow level of the pan, backflow prevention is not required. Where the douche outlet, in any position, is less than 25 mm above the overflow of the pan, a high-hazard backflow prevention device, conforming to AS/NZS 2845.1 or AS 2845.2, shall be installed. This device shall be either part of the douche or installed separately.
Unfortunately, there are advertisements everywhere on social media or websites promoting DIY such as My Bidet Australia. The product they advertise as an easy install toilet seat bidet is illegal. They promote on their website as – Quick and Easy Installation: Includes everything you need including tools to get your bidet up and running in minutes. Easily attaches to and detaches from any standard two-piece toilet.
The reality is the product has no WaterMark certification. As the photo illustrates clearly on their website, the dual nozzles are deep inside the toilet bowl, creating a high backflow risk. This is categorised as high risk as back-siphonage can occur through these nozzles allowing contaminated water from the toilet bowl to be sucked into the potable or drinking water supply.
The toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia sells online for $99, which is an indication of its quality. The price should be a warning enough as to how good this product is likely to be as good quality WaterMark approved bidet seats such as a Toto Washlet start at around $1199.00 in Australia.
The old saying you get what you pay for applies absolutely for this dangerous product. It is frightening that they state on their website – Upgrade your bathroom with beautifully designed bidet attachments, featuring water pressure control knobs. We use high-quality parts that are built to last. They are constructed with high-pressure faucet quality valves and metal/ceramic core. Common sense dictates you cannot produce high quality for $99 that complies with Australian Standards.
Unfortunately, this product is being advertised everywhere on Facebook and Google. Currently, if you do a Google search for a Toto bidet seat the first result in Google AdWords is incredibly for not Toto but My Bidet Australia. It truly is a case of buyer beware and why you need to check it is approved for use in Australia with a WaterMark certification.
What does backflow mean?
Backflow is simply the reverse flow of water. When we refer to it in plumbing terms, it is stopping contaminated water being drawn back into the water supply system that we all use for drinking. In terms of an illegally installed douche spray or bidet spray, this can occur when the water pressure drops significantly. If nozzles or sprays connected to the water supply are in contact with a contaminated water supply in a toilet, there is potential for that contaminated water to be sucked into the drinking water supply. In simple terms, it is like you sucking on a straw.
There are two ways that backflow contamination will occur because of a water pressure drop:
Back-pressure occurs if there is an increase in the downstream pressure, which creates a reversal of the normal direction of the water flow.
Back-siphonage occurs when there is a drop in the supply pressure, thereby creating a negative pressure situation in the water supply. Commonly this will happen if the water is suddenly turned off or there is a dramatic increase in demand such as water used for fire fighting.
With a bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray backflow contamination is possible and if occurring it is classified as high risk. This is why all of these products by law must be:
have a form 9 lodged with the local water authority
All of the above are requirements under the law; they are not optional extras.
What does high hazard mean?
High hazard is the highest rated hazard in the cross-connection hazard rating in AS/NZS 3500.1-2018, which is covered in Section 4 Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention. As Licensed Plumbers, we know how serious this section is in ensuring that our drinking water is not contaminated and potentially life-threatening. Clause 4.3 below lists all three ratings:
4.3 CROSS-CONNECTION HAZARD RATING
Cross-connections are rated using three degrees of hazard, as follows:
(a) High hazard Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to cause death.
(b) Medium hazard Any condition, device, or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, has the potential to endanger health.
(c) Low hazardAny condition, device or practise that, in connection with the water supply system, constitutes a nuisance but does not endanger health or cause injury.
The high hazard rating is not a scare tactic when we talk about an illegal or a non-compliant bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray it is a health issue with the critical wording being potential to cause death.
Yes, any plumbing fixture installed in your home or business can null and void your home and contents insurance policies.
Any bidet seat, douche spray or bidet spray that is not installed by a Licensed Plumber or does not have WaterMark certification has the potential to flood your home. A burst flexihose on these dodgy products can flood your home very quickly.
ACCC and Government warnings
We all understand that COVID-19 has caused a great deal of uncertainty and angst, but a DIY installation of a toilet bidet seat or douche spray or bidet spray is merely breaking the law. DIY of any plumbing fixture has potentially dire consequences, and with products such as the toilet seat bidet from My Bidet Australia, you are risking severe illness or death.
The ACCC, the ABCB and every state government has become alarmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in the purchase of toilet seat bidet douches, handheld bidet sprays and trigger sprays, and other bidet type products that are connected to toilet water supply valve are being installed as a DIY project.
The critical message of every alert issued by every state government is that the installation of any bidet product connected to the drinking water supply must be undertaken by a licensed plumber and must hold WaterMark certification.
With all the uncertainly during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is critical Gold Coast homeowners and businesses don’t fall into the trap of using so-called handymen or unlicensed plumbers. In reality, there is no such occupation categorised as unlicensed plumbers. Every person classified as a plumber is licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or QBCC.
All individuals and companies must hold a QBCC licence for any building works that involve any work that is:
Your plumbing is not a simplistic plaything and worldwide is classified as critical public health infrastructure. All work undertaken on any aspect of your plumbing, drainage or gas infrastructure is legally required to be undertaken by appropriately licensed individuals and companies.
All plumbers frequently experience fixing up after a handyman who makes out that unlicensed plumbers exist and convinces homeowners he can undertake plumbing works as long as it’s under $3300 of value. This is a complete lie by opportunistic unlicensed scammers who put your families health at risk. The benchmark value for undertaking plumbing, drainage or gas work is $0 and always has been.
Any plumbing, drainage and gasfitting work is essential to ensuring the health and safety of the entire community. This is critically important with the COVIC-19 health pandemic we are currently facing.
Every aspect of the plumbing, drainage and gas trades are administered by a strict licensing and legislative regime. This ensures every person in these trades holds the relative QBCC licences that are legally required. This, in turn, ensures the safety and protection of the entire community through the provision of clean, safe drinking water, sanitary drains and sewers to dispose of wastewater, and gas pipes and appliances that are fit for purpose.
We all agree that using a licensed plumber or gas fitter can appear expensive, but it is an investment that protects your families health. Using an unlicensed plumber can null and void your insurance coverage plus leave you with possible legal and financial implications.
Especially now demand to sight the QBCC licences visually. A QBCC occupational licence enables the person to carry out the work physically. A QBCC contractor licence allows the person to engage in contracting for the work.
Can plumbing work be undertaken by unlicensed plumbers or handymen?
Repairing or replacing a drop valve washer, float valve washer or suction cup rubber in a toilet cistern
Replacing caps or covers to ground-level inspection openings on a sanitary drain
Cleaning or maintaining a ground-level grate for a trap on a sanitary drain
Installing or maintaining an irrigation or lawn watering system downstream from a tap, isolating valve or backflow prevention device on the supply pipe for the watering system
Repairing or maintaining an irrigation system for the disposal of effluent from a greywater use facility or on-site sewage facility
Fire protection work for testing plumbing carried out by a holder of a fire protection occupational licence or another QBCC licence
Incidental unskilled tasks such as excavating or backfilling a trench
Many of these tasks are much more complicated than they appear. Mixer taps, for example, can be extremely complicated just to dismantle and technically they have no washer so must always be worked on by a licensed plumber.
Despite social media saying yes you can we can guarantee it is entirely illegal for anyone other than a licensed plumber to install a bidet seat or a douche spray to a toilet.
Checking a plumbers licence
Prior to letting anyone commence work on your plumbing, drainage or gas ask them for their plumbers’ licence as they are legally obliged to produce it for you if requested.
A recent phone call I received regarding suspected illegal plumbing from an insurance company assessor was a timely reminder of why property owners and property managers must ensure the following where any plumbing work is concerned:
that all plumbing work on your property is undertaken by a licensed plumbing contractor
that all legislated council inspections are undertaken and all fees paid
get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee
and that all products such as taps and toilets are WaterMark and WELS approved products
In this particular incident, the assessor was verifying with us what the property owner had claimed after a child had undertaken some experimental work with a pull out kitchen spray hose. We were able to supply the documentation he was seeking and all was well.
But this is not always the case. We had a situation we had to rectify last year where the owner of a hairdressing salon broken every rule in the book and paid dearly for it when her salon was flooded.
Like us all, she was extremely busy. Needing to replace her taps on the hair washing basins she did a Google search and found the perfect taps online at half the price she was expecting to pay.
A week later the taps arrived with instructions on how to install them so she decided her husband could do the installation as he was a bit of a handyman. The following Sunday when the salon was shut her husband removed the faulty taps and after a few minor mishaps had the taps up and working by that evening all ready for the next days trading.
The taps were a huge improvement on the old ones because they actually worked with the water mixing beautifully to the right temperature at the touch of the handle. Everyone was happy – clients, employees and owners.
The salon owner and staff talked with their clients whilst doing their hair how great the new taps. A major topic of conversation was what a bargain they had been to buy online plus they had saved a fortune on employing a plumber by doing all the installation themselves.
Three months after the taps were installed the salon owner got a call at home on a Saturday morning just as she was leaving for work to say there was water coming out of the front door to her salon.
When she arrived at the salon the water was indeed pouring out of the door and everywhere else. Water was flowing continuously from a burst connection hose on one of the new taps. Luckily she knew where to turn the water off on the street. Unfortunately, the taps did not have individual control valves under the hot and cold connections despite it being a required installation of the taps instructions.
A flooded salon meant that she had to get her staff to cancel client appointments despite it being the busiest day of the week. Instead of it being a cash flow positive trading day it became cash-flow negative with staff cleaning up the salon in conjunction with a multitude of tradesman beginning rectification.
On Monday with the rectification work already underway the insurance companies assessor arrived to inspect the damage. As expected he was a model of empathy with her plight taking a number of photos of the damage to the salon.
The Salon owner showed the assessor the faulty tap which he checked over and agreed it was indeed the cause of her flooded salon.
The assessor then asked her where she had brought the mixer taps and who was the plumber who installed them. Proudly she explained how she had saved a fortune purchasing the taps online and that her husband had installed them so they had saved the cost of the plumber as well.
She also told the assessor she had emailed the online store where she had purchased them as they had no phone number demanding that they supply a replacement tap.
On Friday she received a letter from her insurance company not only declining to cover the damage to the salon but also declining coverage on her business interruption insurance. Their reasons were she had through her own negligence directly caused the damage which also caused her business to have to temporarily cease trading. The negligence was:
the installation of non-compliant taps with no Australian WaterMark or WELS certification in the salon’s basins
the said taps were installed by a non-licensed person with no compliant contractor registration in contravention of the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and Queensland Building Services Authority Act 1991.
So the bargain taps and the do it yourself plumbing installation turned into a financial nightmare for the salon owner. The repairs and rectification cost in excess of $30000. In addition, there was the loss of eight days trading plus the loss of clients who went and found a new salon.
You get what you pay for is an old cliche but with plumbing its definitely true. If the salon owner had complied with the law and done what she ultimately had to do, in employing a licensed plumber to install compliant mixer taps with individual control valves at the connection point she would have had not a single problem. Even if she had still had a burst connector flexihose to the tap her insurance coverage would have covered all of her costs as would have the public liability insurance policy of the plumber.
Ultimately its always to your advantage to:
employ a licensed plumber and
make sure the products he installs are WaterMark and WELS compliant and
ensure you get a copy of the Queensland Governments, Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) Form 4 compliance certificate that the plumber must lodge and pay the $29.70 fee.
If you do all of the above you will never have a problem with an insurance claim being rejected because you have a paper trail for the assessor to follow. And I’m sure you will be surprised but our salon owner never received a new tap or any reply from the online store.
For me personally, the overwhelming impression after two days was the commonality of issues worldwide. Countries such as India and China admire and would love to have:
our professional plumbing standards and laws
our training regime inclusive of apprenticeships
our licensing of not only plumbing companies but individual plumbers
our regulation of all things regarding plumbing, drainage and gas fitting
our product regulation and safety whereas all plumbing products must be WaterMark certified
In an equally perverse way countries such as Australia, UK, USA and Canada are deeply concerned about a trend in all jurisdictions that are essentially dumbing down the plumbing industry with the common thread being:
reducing training standards
deregulating or removing licensing
reducing downward regulation standards
tolerating more and more DIY plumbing
reducing or eliminating product regulation
Unfortunately, in Australia, we take plumbing for granted because our high standards, training, regulations and enforcement of laws mean that unlike many other developing countries people simply do not die from poorly installed plumbing in Australia.
In many countries, strong plumbing regulations have made the world a much safer place. But with that safe environment that plumbing has created has come complacency to the degree that we only appreciate plumbing when we don’t have it.
In the USA this complacency has been capitalised on by large corporations who have built large hardware box store warehouses importing product from all around the world. They have lead the charge to dumb down plumbing standards so they can sell more plumbing products to the public at a much higher profit.
In Australia, we see the emergence of this same pattern lead by Bunnings (Coles) and Masters (Woolworths).
In Australia, much of the reduction in standards is trumpeted by politicians as a reduction in red tape, but in reality, it’s removing public health standards that have protected the general population for 150 years.
Acutely merely reducing public health standards is not a reduction in red tape but the caving in of bureaucrats and politicians to lobbyists who convince them our laws and regulations are too strong and are too restrictive.
Already you see Bunnings adopting the American models of offering full supply and installation of product squeezing the margins of manufacturers and plumbers to the absolute limit and advertising the following ….”gas and electric hot water systems. From just $249* we will arrange your standard installation for you, and if you need an emergency replacement system, we will also organise that to be installed.”
It is utterly impossible to legally and compliantly replace an existing hot water system for $249 (or what is, in reality, $226 exclusive of GST), and Bunnings know it, which is why they have the asterisk after the price which states…. “*Additional costs do apply beyond standard installation. For information on licensing, please view details here.” If you click on those links, it leads you to download a three-page document which is full of exclusions. Very simply the $249 price is entirely false but is designed to get you to buy from Bunnings without checking the details.
After listening to the issues raised by delegates from USA and Canada, we have much to fear if we let Bunnings and Masters get too strong. Already we have seen the effects in the continuous limit of choice in supermarkets, and now we are on the verge of seeing it in the hardware industry. Imagine an Australia where Bunnings and Masters control the plumbing industry:
DIY is rampant leading to lower house prices and higher insurance policy costs
fewer skilled jobs leading to fewer apprenticeships
licensed plumbers working at subsistence levels based on rates decided by Bunnings or Masters as occurs in the USA where a journeyman plumber in LA is paid $20000 a year
limited choice of product
no Australian manufacturing further decreasing career choice and leading toincreasing unemployment
We need to ensure politicians understand the implications of dumbing down plumbing because the SARS outbreak and the current Ebola virus are a warning of what faulty plumbing can create. Virus’ are every changing, ever mutating and as Indian and China are only too well aware that strong plumbing regulations guard your health.