A pioneering new digital surface water drainage system will unlock 110 hectares across North Glasgow for investment, regeneration and development with the construction of Europe’s first ‘smart canal’ scheme.
Debbie Hay-Smith is a principal hydrologist and hydraulic engineer at AECOM with more than 20 years of professional experience and is based in the flooding team in Edinburgh. Along with Peter Robinson, Head of Engineering at Scottish Canals, she will speak about how innovative thinking and smart technology are providing climate resilience and economic regeneration in Glasgow at the Climate Smart Engineering conference.
“In 2010, we were first asked to do the hydraulic model of the Forth and Clyde Canal. What kick-started this project was that there were these areas in North Glasgow that could be developed, but they were needing to be regenerated,” she said.
“There was no watercourse nearby for the surface water drainage to be connected to, and all the sewers were already at capacity.”
What emerged was the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, Europe’s first ever ‘smart canal’ scheme, which uses advanced computer modelling for the 250-year-old Forth and Clyde Canal to mitigate flood risk and enable massive regeneration.
The project aims to create a ‘sponge city’ that will see North Glasgow passively absorb, clean and use rainfall intelligently. Advanced warning of heavy rainfall will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off.
“The interesting thing for me has been developing a live model. We’ve not done a live hydraulic model before, and we connected it with SCADA network data that gives the modal information about the canal status, and to forecast rainfall data that we get from the Met Office on a three hourly feed,” Hay-Smith explained.
“What we’re doing is predicting canal levels, such as what runoff goes into the canal from the developments and from just natural catchment areas.
“Based on that, the model then decides to open or close the activated sluice gates, and preemptively lowers the canal in anticipation of receiving this surface water. At the end of any storm it’s back to normal operating level.”
The £17 million ($32 million) project relies on this 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 10 cm.
This will create 55,000 cubic metres of extra capacity for floodwater — or the equivalent of 22 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
“The traditional engineering solution would have been something like a two-kilometre tunnel through to the Clyde,” Hay-Smith said. “The estimates were around £45 million to construct that with all the attendant CO2 impact.”
Hay-Smith said that using the SuDS (sustainable drainage systems) concept was solving the surface water discharge problems more cheaply, and with much lower impact, than a traditional solution.
“Through the ripple effect of the North Glasgow concept, we’re creating nicer places for people to live and encouraging business investment,” she said.