The Greater Glasgow waste water network will undergo a £250 million, five-year improvement programme to stop sewage polluting the Clyde and connecting waterways.
The Victorian-era system of pipes, designed to discharge sewage into the natural environment when they became full, will be replaced by underground tunnels funnelling waste water to storage tanks, where it will be held until it can be treated, and then pumped out into nearby waterways.
A combination of rising populations and climate change causing heavier rainfall has increased overflow from the region’s sewage system into rivers and streams, threatening water quality, wildlife and plants.
Scottish Water said the modernisation plans would transform the region’s ageing network into a sustainable drainage system suitable for the needs of a 21st century city.
Geoff Aitkenhead, Scottish Water’s asset management director, said: “We are delighted to be starting this massive investment in the Glasgow area’s waste water infrastructure which will transform the network and make it fit for the 21st century.
He added: “We have been able to find integrated drainage solutions for the future which will provide knowledge and experience that can be used across the rest of Scotland.”
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) welcomed the move to help safeguard the nation’s biodiversity.
David Sigsworth, Sepa chairman, said: “This is an important step forward in improving the natural environment of the River Clyde and alleviating sewer flooding in Glasgow. Sepa has worked closely with Scottish Water to support the development of the long-term strategy for the Clyde catchment and to help create solutions which address the needs of the city.”
The Scottish Government welcomed the investment, which will support about 500 jobs and up to 50 new apprenticeships. Nicola Sturgeon, cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, said the work was “essential” to Glasgow’s economic prosperity.
The Deputy First Minister added: “It will improve the environment and ensure that new customers can connect to this essential public service.”
The final design of the scheme, which will also see upgrades to safety valves used to control waste water during heavy rainfall, will go out for consultation later this year before engineering companies bid for the project.
It is based on the conclusions of years of research by the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership, which includes Scottish Water, Sepa and Glasgow City Council.
Council leader Gordon Matheson said the scheme was “great news”. He said: “As a city built on the banks of the River Clyde, we are keenly aware of the importance of looking after and managing our natural resources.”
The programme is the first stage of a wider planned programme to upgrade Greater Glasgow’s waste water infrastructure, which could result in £500 million being invested overall.