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Sponge city: Europe’s first ‘smart canal’ feeding Glasgow’s sustainable regeneration

Glasgow City Council’s James Murray explains how award-winning data and digital technology upgrades to the 250-year-old Forth and Clyde Canal are helping build new homes and communities.

While either Venice or Amsterdam and their picture-postcard waterways could justifiably claim to be Europe’s canal capital, Glasgow has beaten both to the punch in bringing its historic urban passages into the 21st century with a first for the continent.

Winner of the Sustainable Drainage and Flood Management Initiative of the Year at the 2021 Water Industry Awards, the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System – known as Glasgow’s ‘Smart Canal’ – was first devised in 2013 in the wake of a review into how extra value could be wrung from the Forth & Clyde waterway’s 18th century infrastructure.

The resulting £17 million project, heralded as Europe’s first smart canal, was ultimately born out of the need for Glasgow City Council to regenerate 110 hectares in the north of the city and deliver up to 3,000 new homes, despite limited capacity in the combined sewer network and a lack of existing watercourses.

The main elements of the project – which began in late 2018 – have been funded by the Glasgow City Region City Deal and the European Regional Development Fund via the Green Infrastructure Fund and Scotland’s 8th City, the Smart City – a data and digital technology programme spanning Scotland’s seven cities; Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.