Some streetlights in the University District are serving double duty these days, according to the Spokane Clean Air Agency newsletter. Three of the lights have had small air quality sensors attached to them, and six more are coming soon. Data gathered by the sensors is used to look at pollution trends and variations. Motor vehicle exhaust contributes to about 56% of Carbon Monoxide pollution.

Data from these sensors is sent to a local collaboration called Urbanova and a project called The Smart and Connected Streetlights Pilot. Washington State University’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research is involved in this collaboration and pilot project.

By looking at the 770 acres that make up the University District, researchers hope to gain some understanding about how pollution can vary on a small scale, such as how air quality can differ from one street to the next. Or why there are small increases in pollution levels at certain times, what causes the variation and the impact from it.

Spokane Clean Air also uses a network of air quality monitors, but on a much larger scale. Spokane Clean Air’s data is used to provide daily air quality forecasts, to notify the community when air quality approaches unhealthy levels, and to identify potential pollution problems and solutions. It is also used to ensure our area meets national, ambient air quality standards set by the U.S. EPA. The Urbanova sensors are not as accurate as Spokane Clean Air’s and can’t be used to measure compliance with federal air quality standards. Being much smaller though, they can be used at a wider variety of locations, according to Mark Rowe, Air Monitoring Section Manager at Spokane Clean Air. They are also much less expensive.

The ultimate goal of Urbanova’s pilot project is to create technological solutions to improve services and infrastructure and address urban challenges. Urbanova partners include Avista, the City of Spokane, Itron, McKinstry, the University District and WSU. 

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