Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch

Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch was a year-long air quality monitoring project to provide a better picture of air quality in the region.

The 12-month project began in May 2019. Crucial to the project were the EPA's partners, including a range of Blue Mountains community groups and volunteers, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), Blue Mountains City and Lithgow councils, Doctors for the Environment, Western Sydney University and the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District. 

Air Watch included one temporary air quality monitoring station in Katoomba which measured particles (PM10 and PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, oxides of nitrogen, visibility and meteorology.

Twelve KOALA (Knowing Our Ambient Local Air) low cost air quality sensors complemented the air quality station. The 12 sensors were installed in Katoomba, Springwood, Wentworth Falls (Boddington Hill) and Lithgow to measure particles (PM10 and PM2.5) and carbon monoxide. Local businesses, schools and volunteers hosted and helped to maintain the KOALA sensors throughout the project. 

The readings from the Katoomba compliance monitoring station could be used to assess compliance with the national air quality standards, known as the Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure. The KOALAs, while valuable for detecting local air pollution sources, are indicative instruments and their data could not be compared directly to the standards.

The final Air Watch report released in November 2020 found the region enjoys air quality that is generally very good, with air pollutants below Australian air quality standards.

The monitoring project also captured air quality data during exceptional events such as the unprecedented 2019-20 summer bushfires and major dust storms. These events had the greatest negative impact on local air quality, the study found.

Emissions from industry and traffic were not discernible during the study but seasonal small rises in carbon monoxide and PM2.5 in the early morning and at night may be the result of solid fuel heaters being used.

Access the data

Data from the Katoomba air quality monitoring station was available in near real-time during the project. Details of the Katoomba air quality monitoring station is on the DPIE website. You can still search and download data collected during the project for particles (PM10 and PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, oxides of nitrogen, visibility and weather through the DPIE website.

Data from the KOALA air quality sensors was also available in near real-time, with the latest reading of fine particles (PM2.5) shown during the course of the project.

Data collected by the Katoomba air quality monitoring station and the KOALA sensors for the project are published in the monitoring reports below.

Monitoring Reports

Western Sydney University analysed the data from the Air Watch project. See these monitoring reports

We can all help improve local air quality

We can all play a part in keeping our air clean. Find out what you can do to help reduce particle pollution and your exposure to it. Changing our habits, such as reducing wood smoke emissions and reducing motor vehicle emissions, can help to improve local air quality.

More information 

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