Rural New South Wales covers many separate airsheds and has a relatively low population density with no significant industrial sources of pollution. Our monitoring in regional and rural NSW comprises two networks. One network monitors air quality in key regional centres. The second network is an expansion of the NSW Community DustWatch network and monitors dust and particles in both rural centres and remote locations across central and western NSW.
Air quality monitoring in regional and rural NSW
Our monitoring network in rural New South Wales includes several regional centres and incorporates over 30 stations from the Community DustWatch network.
During the 2017 NSW Clean Air Summit, the Environment Minister stated the government’s commitment to expanding air quality monitoring in the state, to address the need for improved air quality and understanding of air pollution exposure across the breadth of the state.
The NSW Community DustWatch network is a citizen-science program that gathers data about dust storms to monitor wind erosion and help care for land and soils.
Following the Ministerial announcement, during 2018 it was adopted as the first rural NSW air quality monitoring network. While retaining its original purpose, the network is being modified to better measure air quality across rural NSW. The next phase will be to upgrade selected stations for monitoring both dust and smoke.
We monitor air quality at several regional centres in New South Wales: Gunnedah, Narrabri and Tamworth (North-west Slopes), Armidale (Northern Tablelands), Bathurst and Orange (Central Tablelands), Goulburn (Southern Tablelands), Albury and Wagga Wagga North (South-west Slopes).
The Gunnedah and Narrabri stations are part of the Namoi Air Quality Monitoring Network, which is operated by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and supported by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
We monitor gaseous parameters, NEPH (visibility) and fine particles as PM10 and PM2.5 as well as meteorological variables. Data from the regional sites are reported hourly, as concentrations and AQI values.
The Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network
The DustWatch network has transitioned into the Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network, managed by Climate and Atmospheric Science, and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. There are over 30 rural sites across western NSW, and across the border into South Australia and Victoria (where source areas affect NSW).
We monitor particulate matter in the following size fractions: TSP or Total Suspended Particles (particles less than 100 micrometers in diameter); PM10 (particles less than 10 micrometres in diameter); and PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter).
Particulate monitors currently used in this network do not comply with Australian Standards and provide indicative measurements only. This facilitates a cost-effective and easy-to-operate community-based network. Instrument accuracy is being investigated and selected stations will be upgraded to meet Australian Standards.
Particulate matter concentrations from the rural network sites are reported hourly, expressed as mass of particulate matter (micrograms) per cubic metre of air (µg/m3).