SOUTH DAKOTA Department of
Environment & Natural Resources

Protecting South Dakota's Tomorrow...Today!
Joe Foss Building
523 E Capitol
Pierre, SD 57501
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Air Quality


  Recent Activities and Current Projects

Typically Canadian fires over the years have impacted South Dakota’s clean air around four to five days per year but not at the concentration levels we are seeing from the Canadian fires this year. With more than 100 fires burning in western Canada, smoke coming down from these fires began impacting South Dakota in late June.  Various media sources have reported the impacts from the smoke in South Dakota for several weeks.  The greatest impact so far was experienced on July 6, when every site in South Dakota that operates a continuous monitor for particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in size or less (smoke) exceeded the federal National Ambient Air Quality standard for that air pollutant. This was the first time in 35 years of monitoring that South Dakota experienced widespread high concentration levels. 

EPA requirements call for states to have a system to notify the public of air quality levels in cities with 350,000 or more people.  South Dakota’s largest city is less than half that size and the state had never experienced widespread air quality exceedances in 35 years of monitoring that would dictate a warning system be established.  To establish a warning system, the state would have to develop complex air quality models and hire additional resources to forecast air pollutant levels ahead of time so reliable warnings could be issued in advance as larger cities do now.  However, the state has not experienced the need to establish a warning system since monitoring began 35 years ago. 

Instead of a warning system, the state has developed a system that provides the public with immediate access to real-time air quality data.  In 2004, DENR began replacing manual air quality monitors with continuous monitors throughout the state so a system could be developed to provide hourly readings of the air quality in an area.  This system is available to anyone to see on DENR’s website 24 hours a day. 7 days a week.  It also shows the daily air quality levels along with an explanation of the various levels being monitored and the risks associated with the various monitored levels.  This system allows anyone interested in air quality or anyone that may be sensitive to air pollution to monitor the air quality in the state.  It is especially useful during events such as the Canadian fires where people can decide for themselves what precautions are needed when planning outdoor activities.

Another reason for monitoring continuously is the data can be provided immediately to a federal website called AirNow that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established.  This website allows anyone to see the predicted risk of air pollution anywhere in the United States.  This website is a useful tool for individuals planning outdoor activities or for anyone that is sensitive to air pollution because it provides daily air pollution forecasts.  In South Dakota, the  AirNow website is using real-time data from DENR’s air monitoring network, which provides the best data to be used in forecasting the air quality risk in the state.


DENR encourages anyone interested in air quality levels in the state to visit  DENR's Real Time website to determine air quality levels in your area or AirNow for predicted risks in South Dakota and the rest of the country. The state website shows real time air quality data for monitoring sites throughout the state, shows six color codes for air quality ranging from good to hazardous, and explains potential health risks for the various color coded air quality levels.