Frequently asked questions

Questions and answers about the Approved Methods documents for sampling and analysis of air and water pollutants and the Approved Methods document for measurement and analysis of environmental noise published in 2022. For more information call the EPA on 131 555.

What are the key changes in the water and air Approved Methods documents?


  • Additional approved methods for analytes where suitable
  • Methods for analytes that are prescribed in licences but not listed in the previous Approved Methods
  • Record-keeping requirements


  • Methods for analytes that are not listed in licences or are no longer appropriate
  • Methods for ambient air monitoring are now in the Table of AM-coded methods for ambient air monitoring (PDF 137KB)
  • Methods for monitoring motor vehicle fuels (these fall under national legislation)
  • Dates from the listed methods (latest published version applies)

Other changes

  • new framework
  • clarifies when the EPA has to approve modified or alternative methods
  • less repetition of analytes
  • more guidance on collecting and handling samples
  • more guidance on what to include in reports

Why did the water and air Approved Methods need updating?

The previous Approved Methods were gazetted before 2010 (water in 2004 and air in 2006). New and updated sampling and analysis methods have been introduced since then. As a result, the EPA has received an increasing number of requests to approve variations to test methods or the use of alternative methods.

It was timely to review and update the Approved Methods to ensure they reflect contemporary science and best-practice analytical techniques.

Do I need to do anything different as a result of the updates?


As before, you have to make sure the laboratories and consultants you use for sampling and analysis of water and air pollutants comply with the Approved Methods.


As before, you also have to make sure laboratories and consultants you use are properly accredited. This means:

  • accredited to use the approved analysis methods described in the Approved Methods for testing the relevant analytes in the relevant matrix under ISO/IEC 17025: General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
  • accredited for this by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) or an equivalent accreditation body.

Ambient air monitoring

If your licence requires ambient air monitoring by a coded AM method you must keep using that method. These methods are no longer listed in the air approved methods and are now in the Table of AM-coded methods for ambient air monitoring (PDF 137KB).

What if I want to use modified or alternative methods for air or water?

See section 4 of the air or water Approved Methods document. This says when you need EPA approval and when you don’t.

What if I have an existing approval for a modified or alternative method for air or water?

You won’t need to seek approval for a method you already have EPA approval for. Such a method will remain in force for the period stipulated in the approval, or until such time as the approval is revoked in writing by the EPA.

What if I have to sample and analyse an analyte not covered by the Approved Methods?

This will rarely happen.

If the EPA asks you to test for a pollutant or analyte not listed in the Approved Methods, we will usually tell you which test method to use.

If we don’t, see section 4 of the air or water Approved Methods document.

Any laboratory you use has to comply with the requirements in section 4 of the air or water Approved Methods documents.

If you’re unsure whether the EPA needs to approve your test method, call Environment Line on 131 555.

I am required to conduct ambient air monitoring but the new Approved Methods don’t include this. What should I do?

Your requirements (conditions in licence or other statutory instruments) stay the same – that is, you still have to monitor.

If your licence or other statutory instrument currently requires ambient air monitoring using a specific method then keep using this method.

If your licence or other statutory instrument specifies a codified ambient method (AM) you must continue to monitor in accordance with the corresponding reference standard method. The methods are now in the Table of AM-coded methods for ambient air monitoring (PDF 137KB).

If you’re unclear whether you’re complying with your licence conditions, call Environment Line on 131 555.

Why were ambient air methods removed from the air Approved Methods?

The field of ambient air monitoring is constantly evolving and new technologies and methods are rapidly being made available.

We’ve removed ambient air methods from the Approved Methods to ensure that the EPA's requirements keep pace with change by using a more flexible, adaptable approach to monitoring.

The codified ambient air methods are now in the Table of AM-coded methods for ambient air monitoring (PDF 137KB).

Future changes

Eventually AM-coded method numbers will be phased out of licences. But we’ll continue to prescribe specific ambient air test methods and monitoring requirements in licences and statutory instruments where we think that it is warranted.

We’ve prepared a principles-based Ambient air monitoring guidance note (PDF 717KB) to assist licensees in selecting appropriate ambient air monitoring methods where a method is not specifically listed in the licence.

Why do we need the Approved Methods?

Dependable testing

The approved methods in these documents ensure that pollutant testing carried out for regulatory purposes is robust and reliable, and can be audited.


If you need to show compliance with a regulatory requirement related to air, water or noise pollution then you need to use the methods in the relevant Approved Methods document.

Other purposes

The Approved Methods documents for air and water are also:

  • used in determining a load-based fee under the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2021
  • referred to by other authorities in statutory instruments, such as development consents and approvals, where analytes must be sampled and analysed.

Why is an Approved Methods document needed for environmental noise?

Approved Methods already exist for testing noise emissions from articles prescribed in the Protection of the Environment Operations (Noise Control) Regulation 2017. Approved Methods for the measurement and analysis of environmental noise complement this.

The Australian Standard 1055: 2018 Acoustics – description and measurement of environmental noise (AS 1055) gives general advice on the measurement of environmental noise. The new Approved Methods goes beyond this, setting out good-practice methods for measuring and analysing acoustic data associated with EPA-regulated activities.

The type of requirements included reflect

  • current EPA requirements
  • accepted industry practice as expressed in various standards.

The EPA may reference this document in licences and other statutory instruments when measurement of environmental noise is required.

Who are the Approved Methods for?

The documents will be mainly used by

  • licensees and other persons regulated by the EPA
  • laboratories and consultants hired to carry out statutory monitoring requirements for air, water or noise pollution.

How have the documents been developed?

We reviewed the previous water and air Approved Methods, gazetted in 2004 and 2006 respectively, by

  • reviewing pollutants currently regulated under NSW protection legislation
  • updating the methods with contemporary testing, monitoring and analytical techniques.

Then we developed the new documents using input from

  • EPA and Environment, Energy and Science experts
  • other government laboratories and agencies
  • NATA and the National Measurement Institute
  • public stakeholder consultation held during April–May 2021.
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