About the Warehouse

The IWDW provides easy online access to monitored air quality data, gridded modeling products, emissions data, and an integrated suite of tools to help assess air quality in the intermountain West. The IWDW-AQS project is supported by multiple federal and state agencies with project management assistance from WESTAR-WRAP and technology development and operation by CSU-CIRA. A primary goal of the IWDW is to provide users with the data and tools to assess the ongoing impacts to air quality from the oil and gas development and other human activities on state and federal lands. The resources of the IWDW are freely available, but access to the larger modeling platforms requires a formal request. You are invited to register and start exploring our collection air quality resources today.


Table of Contents
Background

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and federal Clean Air Act (CAA) require air quality planning studies and projects by federal, state, and local agencies. These detailed air quality assessments address actions that may significantly affect the environment or are needed to adopt emissions controls to achieve health and welfare air quality standards and rules. The air quality assessments may include a qualitative analysis that describes the air quality issues or impacts using available monitoring data and studies. The air quality assessments may also include a quantitative analysis that involves the use of air quality models to assess potential impacts to air quality and Air Quality-Related Values (AQRVs), such as visibility, ozone, and atmospheric deposition.

A plume dispersion model (e.g., AERMOD) and a photochemical grid model (PGM) (e.g., CAMx and CMAQ) are typically used to quantitatively assess the potential air quality impacts associated with a proposed development or air quality improvements resulting from mitigation strategies. These models require emissions and meteorological information to estimate the concentration and dispersion of pollutants that are known to impact air quality. Considerable resources are needed to develop the model inputs and to conduct the air quality modeling analyses.

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Pilot Project

As a result, multiple federal and state agencies in the intermountain west identified the need to more efficiently and expeditiously collect air quality data and conduct air quality modeling. To address this need, the agencies entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2011 to initiate the Three State Air Quality Study (3SAQS) pilot project that would add ambient air quality monitoring stations and develop an air quality modeling platform to assess the air quality in the intermountain west. The 3SAQS developed the Intermountain West Data Warehouse (IWDW) to maintain the ambient monitoring data, emission inventories, meteorology, and air quality modeling inputs and outputs. After the 3SAQS culminated in 2014, the Cooperating Agencies of the study decided to continue the efforts and refer to the study as the Western Air Quality Study (WAQS).

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Cooperating Agencies

The cooperating agencies that participate in the Memorandums of Understanding (mentioned above) to support the ongoing development and operation of the IWDW-WAQS are listed below. You can view more information about each agency by clicking to expand its panel:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress. EPA Region 8 serves the six states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as 27 Tribal Nations. more info

NOTE: The U.S. EPA’s role as a Cooperator is limited to providing technical assistance and advice with respect to operation, maintenance, data quality, updates to emissions and air quality modeling datasets and other technical and operational matters, as appropriate. Due to various applicable authorities, the EPA will not solicit or accept gifts of funds in connection with this project and will not participate in fundraising activities or fiscal management related to this Project.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers more than 247.3 million acres of public lands in the United States, a combined area which constitutes one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah state BLM offices are responsible for managing over 30 percent of the mineral resources in the three-state area, which consists of forests, mountains, rangelands, and deserts.more info

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass 193 million acres. The USFS Rocky Mountain Region, Intermountain Region, and Southwestern Region include national forests and wilderness areas within ten different states in the western and southwestern U.S.  more info

The National Park Service (NPS) manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties in the U.S. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management, while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment. The NPS Intermountain Region consistis of the eight states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.  more info

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Mountain-Prairie Region consists of 8 states in the heart of the American west including Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The missions of the U.S. FWS is to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  more info

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is focused on protecting and improving the health of Colorado’s people and the quality of its environment, and pursues its mission through a variety of health and environmental protection programs. The CDPHE's environmental responsibilities include air and water quality protection and improvement, pollution prevention, and environmental leadership.  more info

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) serves as the state’s regulatory agency charged with protecting, conserving and enhancing Wyoming’s land, air and water for the benefit of current and future generations. The Air Quality Division works to keep Wyoming’s skies clean and clear by conducting permitting, monitoring and inspection of oil and gas development within the state.  more info

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality's mission is to safeguard and improve Utah’s air, land and water through balanced regulation. UDEQ helps to implement State and federal environmental laws and works with individuals, community groups, stakeholders, and businesses to protect the quality of Utah's air, land and water resources.  more info

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is the environmental agency for the State of New Mexico that is responsible for protecting and restoring the environment within the state. The department monitors air and water quality to assure state and federal standards are met, and manages permits to facilities and businesses to uphold environmental and health standards.  more info

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Goals

Large-scale and highly technical collaborative projects between multiple Federal and state agencies are inherently challenging to intiate and maintain on a long-term basis, given the often disparate and changing administrative and fiduciary situations of the individual agencies. Surmounting these challenges in the hopes of creating a shared, highly technical, and long-term data resource at a significant overall savings for the member agencies is the primary, overall goal of the IWDW-WAQS effort. Other important goals are listed below:

  • Maintain the overall technical capacity and high quality of work that was developed and achieved during the 3SAQS pilot study.
  • Operate and maintain the hardware, software, and network infrastructure necessary to support the data warehouse and its components.
  • Update the warehouse with current, representative, and complete data, particularly every three years to coincide with the three-year cycle of National Emissions Inventories (NEI).
  • Operate a high-quality ozone monitoring network that accurately represents air quality conditions in the study area.
  • Provide air quality modeling products that reduce the uncertainty, time, and expense of starting an air quality analysis from scratch.
  • Ensure the ability to characterize air quality in the Intermountain West region at a high level.
  • Uniformly apply analysis protocols and data criteria that are commonly agreed to by the Cooperating Agencies.
  • Effectively communicate project status and activities internal and external to the Cooperating Agencies.
  • Establish and maintain a future funding mechanism to ensure the ongoing sustainability of monitoring sites, air quality modeling platforms, and the IWDW.
  • Conduct ongoing outreach to ensure continued support for the project.
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Benefits

The IWDW-WAQS provides high quality tools for understanding and assessing the effects of current and future energy development on air quality in the intermountain west. It also provides a centralized and robust platform for storing and sharing air quality monitoring and modeling data, thus helping to reduce the uncertainty and resources needed for air quality project analyses.

The products provided by the IWDW-WAQS are reviewed and approved by multiple federal and state agencies as a measure of quality assurance and to ensure that the most state-of-the-science techniques are used. These efforts also result in streamlining the air quality analysis process and ensuring the overall consistency of data formats, data quality, data updates, data collection, and analytical assumptions. Most importantly, the IWDW-WAQS reduces the collective time, effort, and resources needed for starting an air quality analysis from scratch.

In particular, analyses would not need to generate:

  • Model input data for baseline periods
  • A no-action scenario for future model simulations
  • Model performance evaluation analyses and products

It is predicted that future projects utilizing the IWDW-WAQS products could potentially save one to two years of effort and $800K per project.

The products offered through the IWDW-WAQS can be used in conducting air quality assessments for NEPA, Regional Haze, State and Federal Implementation Plans, AQRVs, land management planning (e.g., forest planning), and other regulatory air quality analyses and research studies:

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a United States environmental law that promotes the enhancement of the environment and established the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). A significant outcome of the law was the requirement that all executive federal agencies prepare environmental assessments (EAs) and environmental impact statements (EISs).  more info

State Implementation Plans (SIPs) are the federally-enforceable plans which identify for each State how that State will attain and/or maintain the primary and secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Each State is required to have a SIP which contains the control measures and strategies developed through a public process, formally adopted by the State, and submitted by the Governor's designee to EPA (which EPA must formally act on) as revisions to their plan to attain and maintain the national ambient air quality standards.  more info

Air quality research studies often yield sophisticated models and tools that become widely used to manage air quality across the nation and to develop more cost effective and efficient ways to manage air quality. Therefore, one of the goals of the IWDW is to help facilitate new air quality research studies by providing consolidated access to key air quality datasets required by these studies.  more info

In addition, many diverse groups of people can be positively affected over time by the robust system of time/effort/cost-saving efficiencies realized through the ongoing use and support of the IWDW-WAQS:

  • Oil and gas companies: Better information for saving money on air quality analysis
  • Scientists: High quality data and analyses for jump-starting research in the region
  • Land managers: A b etter understanding of the potential effects of projects
  • Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts: Clearer views and easier breathing while enjoying protected lands
  • Ozone-sensitive plants: More effective protection of vegetation resources through better air quality analyses
  • Air quality regulators: Better information for designing regulations to promote healthy air
  • Decision-makers: More cost-effective and accurate science-based information
  • Tax payers: Government dollars spent on protecting air quality are used more efficiently

To provide some additional context and information, the IWDW-WAQS team developed a flyer (PDF) and presentation (PDF) called "Reaching New Heights" that outlines the benefits to contractors and other groups who choose to use the IWDW-WAQS modeling platforms and analysis tools for air quality modeling studies.

Organization

The IWDW-WAQS consists of four primary committees and numerous sub-committees and groups. The IWDW-WAQS also receives support from the Western States Air Resources Council – Western Regional Air Partnership (WESTAR-WRAP). One of the Cooperating Agencies is also assigned as the Project Lead. The Project Lead rotates between the states and federal Cooperators every two years. Additional details about the primary committees, roles, groups, and coordination efforts are outlined below:

  • Provides overall oversight and advice in the long-term, on-going operations of the IWDW and the associated regional modeling activities through the WAQS.
  • Approves work plans and work plan changes.
  • Responsible for review and approval of recommendations from Oversight Committee.
  • Meets annually or more frequently as necessary.
  • Provides day-to-day oversight to the Project Lead Agency concerning IWDW-WAQS activities.
  • Communicates or elevates appropriate issues to the Governing Board.
  • Facilitates the creation of sub-workgroups on an ad hoc basis to address technical and operational questions.
  • Meet bi-annually or more frequently as needed.
  • Supports the Oversight Committee and is the main point of contact for the CIRA staff operating the IWDW and contractors conducting the WAQS air quality modeling and analyses.
  • Provides technical assistance and recommendations on the operations and work products to ensure that work products meet the needs of the Cooperators.
  • Meets after completion of major task or on an as-needed basis.
  • Participants include Cooperators, as well as other research and air quality groups (e.g., RAQC, CSU)
  • Supports the Oversight Committee and is the main point of contact for the CIRA staff operating the IWDW and the contractors conducting the WAQS air quality modeling and analyses.
  • Act as technical liaisons for individual projects and data requests, tracks the results from the modeling studies applying IWDW data, and facilitates the return of modeling data resulting from the application.
  • Meets monthly to review and discuss data requests.
  • Participants include at least one representative from each Cooperating Agency.
  • Facilitates communications between the Cooperators about key issues, and provides the opportunity for the Cooperators to participate in the Project activities.
  • Tracks all communications and project developments, and coordinates, convenes, and facilitates meetings of the Governing Board, Oversight Committee, and other committees and workgroups.
  • Handled by WESTAR-WRAP.
  • Coordinates project activities with the Project Lead Agency and Cooperators.
  • Coordinates and manages work and activities with sub-contractors and IWDW users, and reports activities across the IWDW-WAQS to Cooperators, Oversight Committee, and external user community.
  • Provides point of contact outreach to potential outside funding groups and provides status reports.
  • Handled by CSU-CIRA.
  • Manages the hardware, software, and networking infrastructure for enabling online access to the Data Warehouse.
  • Manages and maintains the file systems, databases, and data inventories of the warehouse.
  • Develops and maintains the IWDW website, wiki, forums, and suite of online tools.
  • Develops the backend software framework for supporting the various warehouse components.
Activities

The ongoing operation of the IWDW-WAQs project involves several key activities which are performed by a wide variety of organizations and people on either a day-to-day or periodic basis. Each of these activities is an important component of the overall IWDW-WAQS effort. These activities are characterized by the following broad categories:

Ambient air monitoring is the systematic, long-term assessment of pollutant levels by measuring the quantity and types of certain pollutants in the surrounding, outdoor air. The data from ambient air quality monitoring is an integral component of the IWDW-WAQS project that serves as the scientific basis for the forward-looking modeling studies that use the Warehouse. Data from over three dozen ambient monitoring networks are imported into the IWDW and updated on an ongoing basis.
Photochemical air quality models have become widely recognized and routinely utilized tools for regulatory analysis and attainment demonstrations by assessing the effectiveness of control strategies. These photochemical models are large-scale air quality models that simulate the changes of pollutant concentrations in the atmosphere using a set of mathematical equations characterizing the chemical and physical processes in the atmosphere. These models are applied at multiple spatial scales from local, regional, national, and global. The IWDW-WAQS cooperators both fund and help manage many of large-scale modeling projects that are conducted within the intermountain West region for the purpose of assessing the impact of human activity on air quality. The meteorology data, emissions data, initial and boundary condition data, modeling software, model performance results, and model output data are all available from the IWDW website for a variety of modeling scenarios and platforms.  get data
The IWDW system is comprised of multiple relational databases, a huge inventory of data, an extensive framework of software libraries, a primary website with multiple supporting websites, and a variety of ancillary web services. These components in turn are installed and operate on a small network of high-end Windows and Linux servers that are housed at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University. Developing, refining, managing, and maintaining this system are complex and time-consuming tasks. The data warehouse development team is committed to building a system that is reliable, maintainable, extensible, and flexible in order to serve the data needs of the project cooperators over time and to establish a solid suite of best practices for the management and dissemination of air quality data.  learn more
The National Park Service (NPS) currently provides financial management for funds provided by the Cooperating Agencies for the IWDW-WAQS, including cooperative agreement and budget management. In the current approach, federal funds are transferred to the NPS through interagency agreements. The NPS then awards task agreements to WESTAR-WRAP for IWDW-WAQS coordination and WAQS modeling studies, and to Colorado State University (CSU) for IWDW development and operations. WESTAR-WRAP contracts for emission inventory and air quality modeling services as a part of its project coordination responsibilities.
Effective communications with respect to the IWDW-WAQS are essential for maintaining support for the work both inside and outside of the Cooperating Agencies. This will entail an ongoing commitment to build upon and strengthen the intended message that will generally focus on the accomplishments of the IWDW-WAQS by the Cooperating Agencies and the benefits derived from them, as well as describing what is planned for the future. The primary communications tools so far have been a brochure and PowerPoint presentation about the project and presentations at various meetings and conferences. These materials are available on the IWDW. Continued development of communication tools will be necessary for conducting effective outreach, and will be developed through IWDW-WAQS workgroups. Communication and outreach products will be approved by the Oversight Committee for use and distribution. The Cooperating Agencies may also seek assistance from WESTAR-WRAP to communicate the IWDW-WAQS products to internal and external groups.