The NSW Smart Sensing Network this week announced a $2.4 million air quality monitoring research and development program.
It will be undertaken in collaboration with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) that positions NSW as a forerunner in the use of low-cost air quality sensing in the world.
Dubbed Operational Network of Air Quality Impact Resources (OPENAIR), the program brings together 16 councils and several small businesses with a multidisciplinary group of researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australian National University (ANU), University of Sydney, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and University of Western Sydney to develop an integrated low-cost air quality sensing network for NSW councils.
The program has received a $1.78 million contribution from NSW Government through the $45 million Smart Places Acceleration Program, which is part of the Digital Restart Fund.
Director of Climate and Atmospheric Science from the Department of Planning, Matthew Riley, said the government responds to air quality issues using air quality data provided by a network of almost 100 air quality monitoring stations operated by the DPE.
Producing high-quality data that is available to the public in near real-time, these monitoring stations are geographically dispersed to measure air quality levels typical of general exposures by urban, regional and rural communities across NSW.
“The network conducts long-term trend monitoring, compliance monitoring against national air quality standards and delivers robust air quality data and information that is routinely accessed and used by councils and communities,” he said.
“The recent availability of low-cost environmental sensors makes it feasible to collect localized air quality data at urban precincts, busy road intersections and areas where local topography concentrates pollution that can be used to provide additional localized air quality information to the public.”
NSSN co-Director Professor Benjamin Eggleton said the multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the NSSN member universities will develop a world-class air quality sensing system that will help metropolitan and regional councils collect and use localized air quality data from their local government areas.
“Standardising the data from diverse sensing networks into platforms that provide application and decision-ready information will enable local governments to address environmental issues in their communities more effectively, benefitting urban planners and first responders during bushfires and heatwaves,” Eggleton said.
Professor Jason Prior from the University of Technology Sydney said the project is the first of its kind in Australia.
“We will be taking localised air quality sensing in air pollution hot spots that are unable to be comprehensively carried out by centralised government authorities, and enabling it to be done by local councils, benefiting both the local residents and larger government agencies,” Prior said .
“The program will ultimately enable governments and all members of local communities from citizen scientists and schools to businesses and aged care centers to collect air quality data.
“They will be able to use that data to pursue evidence-based solutions to localized environmental issues.
“The initiative is a significant push towards supplementing high-quality state-wide air quality monitoring network.”
The overall aim of the program is to enable councils to positively impact air quality issues in their communities. The project has the following specific objectives:
- Deploy and use low-cost environmental monitoring in several LGAs to inform council policy, planning, services, and responses to air quality issues in their communities,
- Develop a repeatable methodology and best practice resources that NSW councils can use when developing business cases, procuring sensing strategies and using air quality information.
- Develop pilot environmental data feeds to supplement the state-wide air quality monitoring network
- Build an ongoing community of practice for air quality monitoring that benefits councils, the state government and researchers.
Participating councils include: Camden Council, City of Sydney, Hawkesbury Council, Hornsby Council, Lake Macquarie Council, Muswellbrook Council, Newcastle City Council, Northern Beaches Council, Orange Council, Parramatta City Council, Ryde Council, Sunshine Coast Council, Sutherland Council, Tweed Council, Wollondilly Council, Wollongong Council.