NSW Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network gets $1.5 million upgrade

Local communities across the State's regional and rural areas now have access to improved public information on local air quality with a $1.5 million upgrade completed this week for the NSW Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network.

DPE Senior Scientist Stephan Heidenreich begins the station upgrade in Tibooburra

Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Senior Scientist Stephan Heidenreich said the upgrade will ensure people in western NSW can access accurate, reliable air quality data in real-time.

"We know that as Australia's centre becomes hotter and drier soil erosion is likely to increase and local communities across western NSW are likely to experience more dust storms," said Mr Heidenreich.

"We have upgraded 39 air quality monitoring stations across western NSW, Victoria and South Australia to ensure people can access the information they need on particulate levels in their local area.

"The upgraded monitoring stations will allow people to make informed decisions about managing potential health impacts and deliver greater certainty for communities," said Mr Heidenreich.

The 39 monitoring stations, part of the NSW Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network (formerly known as DustWatch) have been upgraded to measure fine particles less than 2.5 µm in diameter (PM2.5). These fine particles are the major cause of reduced visibility and health impacts, especially for vulnerable people like the elderly and those with heart or lung disease.

"The upgrades have not only improved the accuracy and reliability of the data but will also make it easier for our DustWatch volunteers to maintain the equipment and troubleshoot issues onsite," said Mr Heidenreich.

"Each of the 39 stations are monitored and maintained by a local volunteer. These volunteers are absolutely critical to the network.

"DustWatch is one of Australia's longest running citizen science projects and our proud DustWatchers are some of the most committed and best citizen scientists in the land," said Mr Heidenreich.

Upgrades were undertaken in collaboration Local Land Services, who support a number of stations in the Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network as part of a longstanding partnership with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Air quality data from the NSW Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network is updated hourly and can be accessed via the NSW Government air quality website.

"It's really important for people with particular sensitivities to check the air quality in their region regularly. I really encourage everyone to visit the website and familiarise themselves with how to find and understand the air quality data available," said Mr Heidenreich.

"There are some great resources on our website that we've developed in partnership with NSW Health to guide you on how you can modify your activities to protect your health when air quality is poor," said Mr Heidenreich.

Health advice in relation to air quality is available at Air Quality.

Monthly reports on dust activity are available at DustWatch publications.