Construction of Europe’s first ‘smart canal’, which will use the 250-year-old Forth & Clyde Canal and modern technology to mitigate flood risk as well as enable regeneration, is underway in Glasgow.

The pioneering ‘digital surface water drainage system’ will 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 £17m project, delivered through a partnership between 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.

It will 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. This will create 55,000 cubic metres of extra capacity for floodwater.

Known as the North Glasgow Integrated Water Management System, the project to create a ‘sponge city’ – the term used to describe how cities respond to surface water flooding – will see North Glasgow passively absorb, clean and use rainfall intelligently.

Advanced warning of heavy rainfall will 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 scheme will unlock 110 hectares across the north of the city for investment, regeneration and development, will see the Forth & Clyde Canal connected to five new sites over the next 10 to 15 years, including Sighthill, Hamiltonhill, Ruchill Hospital, Cowlairs, and Dundashill.

Funding for the scheme comes from the Glasgow City Region City Deal, the Green Infrastructure Fund, and Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City.

The project was launched today by Glasgow City Council Leader Susan Aitken, Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley, and Simon Parsons, strategic customer services planning director at Scottish Water.

“This is a fantastic day for Glasgow’s Canal,” said Susan Aitken, “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.”

Collaboration between Glasgow City Council, Scottish Canals and Scottish Water, has transformed a concept into reality “after a decade of hard work and commitment,” said a spokesperson. Simon Parsons added: “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.”