Glasgow Smart Canal

The first “Smart Canal” in Europe uses historic canals and 21st Century innovative technology to solve the problem of flooding and provide land for the regeneration of North Glasgow. Officially named the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System (NGIWMS), the project will see North Glasgow passively absorb, clean, and manage rainfall intelligently by adopting a ‘Sponge City’ approach

The project was designed and developed by AECOM in conjunction with Scottish Canals, Glasgow City Council and Scottish Water under the collaborative arrangements of the Metropolitan Strategic Drainage Partnership. The project was delivered by Scottish Canals, with Mackenzie Construction as the main Contractor coordinating the works and providing civil engineering delivery. Fairfield Control Systems were sub-contracted for the Integrated Control System which included the all the EC&I and IT infrastructure.

 “2020 had it’s challenges for everyone, but it was great to see this achievement come online.  Development and delivery of the Glasgow Smart Canal is a testament to partnership working and collaboration at all levels and demonstrates opportunities to build back better and work to net zero targets are achievable if we all work towards a common goal.”

Peter Robinson, Head of Engineering at Scottish Canals

The Brief

A solution had to be found as flooding was a significant issue for north Glasgow due to the sewer systems being at full design capacity and 110 hectares of land being constrained due to no drainage route for surface water.

An innovative solution was required to reduce the future flood risk on greenfield and brownfield sites to enable development adjacent to the city centre whilst providing cost savings, water quality management and habitat improvements. The solution had to regulate water storage capacity to allow for wet and stormy weather, ensuring that the canal can still be used and navigated through.

Here is a short video that explains more about the project.

The Solution

The 60 year agreement and scheme, costing £17 million, provides advanced warning of heavy rainfall and will automatically trigger a lowering of the canal water level to create capacity for surface water run-off. Infrastructure provided by Fairfields monitors the canal’s flow, level, and water quality, then makes adjustments of up to 10cm to allow for an increase of water levels equivalent to the volume of 22 Olympic swimming pools.

The system provided 22 outstations that are situated across the summit pound of the Forth and Clyde canal network. The outstations consist of automated water control structures and monitoring sites that monitor water level, flow, and quality. The system is managed by an integrated control system that combines a SCADA system and data historian with a hydrological and hydraulic model.

The system runs in hydrological mode to model rainfall forecast data to predict the expected water volume that will runoff into the canal. This sets a target canal level for a proportion of the predicted runoff. A complete hydraulic model is then run using the monitored flows and levels from the outstations as the initial conditions. Real-time logic control determines the optimised combination of feeder and discharge sluice positions to achieve the target level. The sluice positions are communicated to the SCADA system, which relays them to the feeder and discharge sluices, and the drawdown of the canal begins.

“Collaboration has been key to the success of this project, as it was complex and had many stakeholders. We are proud of our involvement and look forward to the seeing the benefits that this innovation brings”.

Oliver Mangham, Applications Director at Fairfields 

About the System

The outstations use a combination of Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) and PLCs located in bespoke secure stainless-steel kiosks. A variety of mains and solar power is used to power the outstations. The water control structure outstations use penstocks to control water flow, and the monitoring outstations use a combination of the following sensors to monitor water level, flow, and quality:

  • In-pipe Area Velocity (AV) flowmeters
  • Non-invasive ultrasonic pipe flowmeters
  • Side looking doppler flowmeters
  • Bed Mounted flowmeters
  • Ultrasonic level sensors
  • Pressure level sensors
  • Water quality meter (pH, turbidity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen)

A private APN network is used to allow data to be exchanged between the remote sites and SCADA system over a secure IPsec VPN connection.

At the heart of the system is resilient IT infrastructure, which includes fault-tolerant servers and a redundant, secure network solution combining routers, firewalls, adaptive security appliances and managed switches. This infrastructure is all installed within a data centre with resilient power and data connections.

The system was designed to the ISA/IEC 62443 Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems standard. Our Industrial ICT team provided High Level and Detailed Cyber Security Risk Assessments, Zone and Conduit Models, Penetration Testing, and Patch Management.

The SCADA system

The SCADA is the central User Interface for the system. It provides operators, maintainers, management, and 3rd parties secure access to data using situation awareness graphics on PC, laptop, and mobile devices.

The SCADA is responsible for data acquisition of information from the outstations and MET Office, storing it in a Data Historian. This data is then exchanged with the Innovyze ICMLive software and used within the hydrological and hydraulic model.

The system has 3 modes of operation; manual, where the operator can operate the water control structures remotely; Semi-auto, where the system makes the decisions on the operation, but the user is required to confirm the decisions; and Auto, where the system fully automates the level control.


The scheme has brought great results and benefits, including:

  • Providing flood risk reduction
  • Water quality management
  • Improved habitat
  • Cost savings estimated at 75% compared to a standard drainage solution and a saving of 35,000t CO2
  • Regeneration and development area to allow developments of over 3000 new homes.

Following the completion of the scheme Fairfields have been contracted to provide preventative maintenance, 24/7 support and patch management services.

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