Construction begins on ‘smart canal’ system in Glasgow, described as a European first

A cyclist on the Forth & Clyde Canal.

A new digital surface water drainage system will unlock 110 hectares across the north of the Glasgow for investment, regeneration and development with the construction of Europe’s first ever ‘smart canal’ scheme.

The scheme is being constructed on the 250-year-old Forth & Clyde Canal.

The £17m project, being delivered via a partnership of Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and Scottish Water under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership, will use sensor and predictive weather technology to provide early warning of wet weather before moving excess rainfall from residential and business areas into stretches of the canal where water levels have been lowered by as much as 10cm. This will create 55,000 cubic metres of extra capacity for floodwater – equivalent to 22 Olympic swimming pools.

Officially named the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, the project to create a so-called ‘sponge city’ – a term used to describe how cities respond to surface water flooding – will see North Glasgow passively absorb, clean and use rainfall intelligently, according to an announcement about the project. Advanced warning of heavy rainfall will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off.

Before periods of heavy rain, canal water will be moved safely through a network of newly created urban spaces – from sustainable urban drainage ponds to granite channels – that absorb and manage water in a controlled way, creating space for surface water run-off.

The project was launched in October by Glasgow City Council Leader Susan Aitken, Scottish Canals’ CEO Catherine Topley and Simon Parsons, Strategic Customer Services Planning Director at Scottish Water, signing a 60-year service agreement.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Glasgow City Region City Deal Cabinet, said: “This is a fantastic day for Glasgow’s Canal, as we mark the introduction of cutting-edge technology that will both allow surface water in this part of the city to be managed, and allow the building of new homes and businesses on land that historically have been unfit for development.

“It is very exciting to see such smart technology in operation in Glasgow – one of very few examples in the world – and we can look forward to it playing a key role in the continued regeneration of Glasgow’s Canal and the north of the city.”

As part of the project, Scottish Water will vest and maintain all underground pipes that are connected to a Scottish Water system and will maintain some of the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDs).

Simon Parsons, Scottish Water’s Strategic Customer Services Planning Director, said: “Scottish Water is delighted to be involved in this unique project that enables development in Glasgow and manages flood risk using the canal.

“This will help manage the impact of climate change on the sewer network. This is the sort of development that we are wanting to see more of and are working with local authorities across Scotland under our Storm Water Strategy to deliver.”