How Scotland’s Smart Canal is transforming Glasgow’s flood risk and regeneration potential

A 250-year-old canal meets 21st century technology

Scotland’s Smart Canal, also known as the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System (NGIWMS), is a groundbreaking project that combines the historic Forth and Clyde Canal with modern sensor and predictive weather technology to reduce flood risk and enable massive regeneration in the north of Glasgow. The project is a partnership of Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and Scottish Water under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Scheme.

The project, which started in 2018 and is expected to be completed by 2028, will use the canal as a giant stormwater drain that can store and move excess rainfall from residential and business areas into stretches of the canal where water levels have been lowered by as much as 10 centimetres. This will create 55,000 cubic metres of extra capacity for floodwater – equivalent to 22 Olympic swimming pools.

The project will also use sensor and predictive weather technology to provide early warning of wet weather and automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create space 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.

A sponge city for a sustainable future

The Smart Canal project is inspired by the concept of a ‘sponge city’ – a term used to describe how cities respond to surface water flooding by passively absorbing, cleaning and using rainfall intelligently. The project aims to create a resilient and adaptable water management system that can cope with the impacts of climate change and urbanisation.

The project will also unlock 110 hectares across the north of the city for investment, regeneration and development, paving the way for more than 3,000 new homes. The project will see the Forth and Clyde Canal connected to five new sites over the next 10 to 15 years – Sighthill, Hamiltonhill, Ruchill Hospital, Cowlairs and Dundashill.

How Scotland’s Smart Canal is transforming Glasgow’s flood risk and regeneration potential

The project will not only reduce flood risk and enable development, but also enhance the environmental, social and economic benefits of the canal and its surroundings. The project will create new blue and green spaces for leisure and recreation, improve water quality and biodiversity, and promote active travel and community engagement.

A first of its kind in Europe

The Smart Canal project is the first of its kind in Europe and one of the few examples in the world of using a working heritage asset to mitigate flood risk and enable regeneration. The project is a testament to the innovation and collaboration of the partners involved and the potential of the canal network to contribute to Scotland’s net-zero ambitions.

The project has received recognition and support from various sources, including the Glasgow City Region City Deal, the Green Infrastructure Fund, and Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City. The project has also been shortlisted for several awards, such as the Scottish Transport Awards and the Scottish Green Energy Awards.

The project was officially launched in 2018 by Glasgow City council leader Susan Aitken, Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley and Simon Parsons from Scottish Water with the signing of a 60-year service agreement. The project has recently made its first connection to new housing following the completion of the first phase of works at Sighthill.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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