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Doust floats its water brake

IF you build a better mousetrap, buyers will beat a path to your door, but it seems that if you build a better water saving device in water-restricted Western Australia, the authorities handing out the water wise rebates don’t want to know. That is the view of a WA company facing one of the biggest hurdles a small business will probably ever face — a big, regulation controlled, bureaucracy laden government agency like the Water Corporation. Award-winning tap ware and plumbing products manufacturer Doust Plumbing Products has developed what it describes as a world leading water saving device that independent tests show can cut water consumption by 68 per cent without any noticeable loss in water flow. The licensed Doustseat and water brake, which goes inside a tap and costs about $4, was launched in 2000 and offered it to the Water Corp for no-strings attached testing. Company founder Philip Doust told WA Business News the offer was a mixture of altruism and business but was met with resounding silence. In an attempt to force the issue and promote the new product, Mr Doust went public, a move that prompted a media release from the Water Corp in late 2002 over which Mr Doust is now pursuing legal action, alleging defamation and malicious falsehood. The media release said Water Corp managing director Dr Jim Gill was: “Responding to claims from a Perth plumber that a water saving invention that could be fitted to a shower tap had been ignored.” He said the device had not been tested under the National Water Conservation Rating and Labelling Scheme, conducted on behalf of the Water Services Association of Australia and administered through Standards, Australia. Mr Doust said the Doustseat and water brake had been properly assessed by Standards Australia and issued licence 2681 in conjunction with the Doustvalve. In his release, Dr Gill said: “The AAAAA water rating scheme provides the most equitable means of gauging the effectiveness of a claimed water efficient product.” Mr Doust said the AAAAA rating was “too simplistic”, as devices tested under it were rated on flow rate and not the water actually saved. In October 2002 and prior to the Water Corp media release, Mr Doust submitted the Doustseat and water brake to the corporation’s own testing facility, the Plumbing Testing Laboratory (PTL), accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia. The PTL tests through a 6.4 centimetre shower rose at three accepted flow pressures showed flow rates of 8.8 litres per minute (l/minute), compared with 29l/minute without the device, 11.3l/minute versus 37l/minute and 13l/minute versus 41l/minute. The PTL report said the spread angle of the spray did not appear to change significantly. “The water savings are clear,” Mr Doust said. However, in the Water Corp’s first direct contact with Mr Doust, Dr Gill wrote late last year that the corporation would “only support this type of product if it is has been independently tested”. Dr Gill pointed out that within two of the three accepted flow pressure rates, the Doustseat’s flow rate was over the accreditation’s 10l/minute. “The corporation denies the allegations that it has engaged in a false allegation or has sought to discredit Doust Plumbing Products,” Dr Gill said. What seems to be at issue is the clash between existing regulations and real water conservation. At the centre of Mr Doust’s actions is his view that the water saving potential of the Doustseat far outweighs the currency of the standards set to govern such devices. Whatever the rights or wrongs, it has degenerated into a potentially expensive legal dispute, which Mr Doust is prepared to embark on. He wants a more comprehensive standard to take more account of water savings and what the consumer wants.

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