Network improvements in 2021 included the addition of rainfall measurements at several sites and the roll out of weather monitoring at remote air quality monitoring stations. And, we released a dedicated website on air quality in New South Wales.

Dedicated air quality reporting website for New South Wales

In order to provide better air quality information to the public information, we have made it easier for people to find information about their local air quality. In October 2021, we launched Air quality NSW, a new website dedicated to air quality in New South Wales. This website has a fresh, modern look that meets the government's digital design standards, including compatibility with mobile phones and tablets.

The website features:

  • a map viewer that is searchable by suburb or location
  • prominent health advice for each air quality monitoring station
  • an interactive map, which allows you to add current wind direction to the display
  • the option to see data trends over 48 hours or 7 days.

This is a trial phase release, with plans for ongoing upgrades.

Improved monitoring capabilities

In 2021, we maintained an extensive air quality monitoring network of 94 stations, comprising 55 standard stations and 39 rural network stations. No new stations were added, but monitoring capability was expanded to measure rainfall at several existing stations in the standard networks. Additionally, the Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network upgrades were finalised in 2021 with the roll out of selected weather monitoring stations at remote sites to help with dust storm characterisation and provide information on meteorological conditions to communities in remote areas of New South Wales.

Incident monitoring

The department undertook air quality monitoring for 2 incidents in 2021, at the request of the NSW Environment Protection Agency.

The first was in mid-November, at a facility located in Kurri Kurri in the Lower Hunter valley. This was in response to a multi-day factory fire, where there was some community concern about the impact of fumes on residents and the start of Higher School Certificate exams.

The second emergency monitoring campaign was undertaken in Bowral from early December. This was in response to smoke from a landfill fire impacting residents living near the facility. This monitoring was continued into early 2022.

Air Quality Monitoring Plan for New South Wales

We updated the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Plan in 2020–21, which explains how the NSW Government intends to monitor ambient air quality across metropolitan and regional areas, during the 5-year period 2020–25. For more information, please see the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Plan 2020.

Ongoing community engagement

Our scientists listen and respond to community needs through community engagement opportunities and panels administered by the NSW EPA. This includes the Namoi Region Air Quality Advisory Committee, the Newcastle Community Consultative Committee on the Environment, and the Upper Hunter Air Quality Advisory Committee.

Our scientists also work with 39 citizen scientists who help to maintain the 39 Rural Air Quality Monitoring Network stations, to develop air quality citizen science capability and deliver air quality information to rural communities.

Research projects

Regional summer ozone and NO2 monitoring campaign

Ozone is measured as a standard parameter in the Greater Metropolitan Region, given it is the major pollutant produced in urban photochemical smog during summer. In 2021, the national standards for gaseous pollutants were revised with the 1-hour (10 pphm) and 4-hour standards (8 pphm), replaced by a new rolling 8-hour standard for ozone, of 6.5 pphm introduced. Additionally, under the new legislation the State must report on population exposure to nitrogen dioxide and ozone, in addition to particles as PM2.5.

With a stricter ozone standard, it has become necessary to supplement measurements made routinely in the Greater Metropolitan Region, with further monitoring to-re-assess the scale of summer ozone pollution across New South Wales.

During summer 2020–21, we initially monitored ozone at 5 major NSW regional centres, and will continue this campaign into summer 2021–22. We supplemented the monitoring this summer with additional monitors for nitrogen dioxide. The need for further monitoring became evident when ozone levels at Gunnedah were found to be just under the new 8-hour standard during the January 2019 heatwave.

The Sydney Air Quality Study

The 2017–19 phase report on the Sydney Air Quality Study released in November 2020, describes how air quality has changed in Greater Sydney over the past 2 decades and includes new insights into the contribution of major sources to air pollution and population exposure in the region. In 2021, we progressed to the next phase which aims to present new findings on the health costs of air pollution, in collaboration with NSW Health and the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

Enhanced modelling and forecasting capability

Our Enhancing Air Quality Forecasting program continues to improve air quality forecasting capability by developing new tools tailored, run and validated for predicting air quality in New South Wales.

Our scientists are focused on enhancing the accuracy of air quality forecasting and conducting dynamic modelling of air pollutant emissions from human sources, such as residential wood heating, power stations and motor vehicles. We are also investing in an advanced windblown dust emissions scheme, to better capture the regional air quality conditions during dust storm events. These have been under development within the Modular Emissions Modelling System project.