The IWDW provides easy online access to a wide variety of air quality data as well as a suite of integrated tools for visualizing and analyzing the data.
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.^ Top
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).^ Top
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
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
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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: