Air pollution in NSW has been monitored in NSW since 1951, with continuous monitoring of fine particles starting in the 1970s. However, expansion of the monitoring network and the development of websites and apps has resulted in this information being easily accessible to NSW customers across the state.
For the past 10 years the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Air Quality Monitoring Network has grown to almost 100 air quality monitoring stations spanning urban, regional, and rural areas of the state. The network provides near-real time air quality information and an alert system during air pollution events and emergencies. Recent enhancements to the website have resulted in an increasing number of active users from 3,000 in 2019 to over 6,000 in 2021.
Yvonne Scorgie, Acting Director of Climate and Atmospheric Science at the NSW Department of Planning and Environment says that making data on air quality monitoring freely available to the public is a key part of the NSW Government’s Air Program. “This includes better information services, such as the new website and air quality Application Programming Interface and a new air quality reporting system, for improved data management and web reporting” Yvonne commented.
The new air quality website design is intended to be mobile-responsive and a modern information display and reporting environment that is simple, efficient, and relevant for NSW customers.
A dedicated air quality forecasting team provides routine short-term (24 to 72 hours) air quality forecasts, with air quality monitoring and forecasts routinely accessed by NSW communities, local councils and a range of agencies including NSW Health, NSW EPA (Environment Protection Authority), Resilience NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology, and the Rural Fire Service.
“This helps to inform emergency response to poor air quality events, assess air quality risks of planned operations such as hazard reduction burning and supports air quality research and trend monitoring to inform regulation and policy development,” Yvonne said.
Upgrades in computational capacity and forecast models means that accurate air quality forecasts can be delivered more rapidly to help people take action to reduce their exposure.
The demonstration version of the new Air Quality Website was released in November 2021 - is a collaboration of NSW Department of Planning and Environment, NSW Health, and the NSW Department of Customer Service, using the Digital Toolkit.
For the first six months of its operation, the demo release will operate concurrently with the www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/air and www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/air-quality webpages, with users invited to experience the demo websites and provide feedback. Users are directed to and from the new site and existing sites as appropriate.
The new website has:
- Designed to be mobile / tablet responsive
- Intuitive design, developed with users’ input
- Crisp, modern look that meets the Government’s digital design standards
- Search function based on suburb or location
- Interactive map, which allows you to add current wind direction to the display
- Prominent health advice for each air quality monitoring station
Searchable data from each monitoring station for the previous six months (data downloads to 1994 will still be available from the other websites during this demo period)
Option to set rolling data over 48 hours or seven days.
Reporting of near real-time air quality was updated in 2020, following work of the cross-jurisdictional National Air Technical Advisory Group. This Group endorsed the enHealth recommendations for consistent hourly reporting of particles across Australia. EnHealth is a standing committee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which provides health advice at a national level across Australian jurisdictions.
NSW implemented the Australian Government’s more stringent air quality standards for gaseous pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, ozone and nitrogen dioxide in May 2021. These pollutants are routinely recorded and reported for the NSW AQM network.