How to Manage Flooding and Improve Water Quality without Steel, Concrete, and Hard Engineering

with 🎙️ James Murray, MGSDP Manager at the Glasgow City Council  

💧 the Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership (MGSDP) thinks about and manages rainfall to end uncontrolled flooding and improve water quality.

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This episode is part of my series on Nature-Based Solutions (check it out 😉)

What we covered:

🍏 How the Glasgow Region built upon the 2002 flood to turn its water management approach on its head 

🍏 How they decided to leverage nature-based solutions and sustainable urban drainage systems

🌱 How you can’t put nature in a box, and what that implies when it comes to NBS 

🍎  The perks and pitfalls of Blue-Green approaches 

🧮  How confusing it can be to understand the meaning behind a return period of “once in a century”

🌦️ How climate change affects the frequency and intensity of meteorological events

🔍 How Nature-Based Solutions come with a wealth of welcome side effects: improving mental health, fostering biodiversity, limiting urban heat, or enhancing the air quality 

🍏 How a smart approach enhances the overall system by feeding it the right data

🍎 How Sustainable Drainage can create tensions over land use, and what to do to overcome those

🍏 Glasgow’s long ball game, adapting regulations, COP 26, public education… and much more!

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 

Teaser: Manage Flooding


🔗 Check the MGSDP Website

🔗 Send your warmest regards to James on LinkedIn

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Infographic: Manage Flooding


Quotes: Manage Flooding


Full Transcript:

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi James, welcome to the show. Hi, I’m fine. So, um, we will be going into a very interesting topic in just a minutes, uh, and talk it out. Let me spoil a bit about blue-green infrastructure and, um, and a lots of stuff around what you’re doing right now around that in, in Glasgow. But, um, we have traditions that starts with our boss for today, and you’re sending me a postcard from somewhere in Scotland, but what can you tell me about the place you’re at right now that that would ignore.

James Murray: Milan. And at the moment I’m sitting, uh, at home, um, as a lot of people are doing at the moment, but, um, yeah, so I’m in the west coast of the Western side of the central part of Scotland, close to Glasgow. Um, I don’t actually live in Glasgow myself. The part that I feel, I love this part of the way down metropolitan area there, the city region, we call it Glasgow city region, which, um, yeah.

Uh, um, has a total population of about 2 million Glasgow. The city itself has a population of about 600,000, but, um, uh, as with a lot of, uh, settees that tends to, to bleed into other areas and other smaller towns that, that, you know, people tend to include as part of the bigger area. Um, but, uh, yes. So then here we’ve had, uh, Dry summer, um, relatively speaking, certainly for Glasgow.

Um, and for, for Scotland more broadly, um, going into drought in some areas of Scotland, which is surprising for a lot of people that Scotland would ever get to drought. Um, we have had a few big flood events, and so far as heavy rain has caused flooding for people in properties, but nothing on the scale of what’s happened elsewhere in Europe and around the world this summer.

So, uh, Glasgow has yet, again, been relatively lucky in that regard. Um, but, uh, yeah, as I said, it’s been, been pretty dry, but with one or two thunderstorms,

Antoine Walter: I think we’ve come back to the topic of floats climate change, how to adapt to all of that, what you can do, what you can plan, but right before, when it was reviewing your, your path.

Um, and as I already spoiled that we will be discussing a lot about blue-green infrastructure and how we can have natural based solutions. I saw that you’re a civil engineer. That’s your background, where you were trained as a civil engineer. And I was just wondering, you know, because I’ve seen that also in the material that you shared with me before having this discussion, there’s this hard engineering on one end.

And then there is the blue green approach. And to me, those are somehow two different tracks. Is it true? Or I’m really making that to.

James Murray: Um, yeah, I, I would say, uh, as a civil engineer by background, um, my, my, my degree was in environmental civil engineering. So that may be mixer, a slate deference. Um, but yeah, traditionally, uh, civil engineering has been about the big projects, the construction, the hard stuff.

Uh, but as we’ll probably go on to talk on, talk about later on, um, we, we need to transition to softer approaches these days, uh, for a whole variety of reasons. And my career over the past 10, 15 years has been doing that. Um, so yeah, w less of the less concrete and steel these days and, and more of the vegetation, um, as is the direction that I’ve been going in with my career, but also the industry as a whole has been going and, um, Somewhat slowly, um, challenges that are many of, um, and yeah, we’ll probably talk a bit more about that, but, um, yes, the direction that I think most things are going in these days

Antoine Walter: to place all of that into, into a frame so that we understand where you are right now and, and why we’re having this discussion together.

Can you define, um, what the, the metropolitan Glasgow strategic drainage partnership is? And maybe in the next step, I might be saying mg SDP.

James Murray: Certainly most people do tend to defer to his M GSTP and even then you get the letters in the wrong order. It’s it’s not very friendly to see. Um, but yeah, the MGSDP are.

Um, non-statutory collaborative partnership of organizations that, that basically have a responsibility for the drainage systems and the, and the, uh, Glasgow city region. Um, so there’s, there’s the usual suspects in terms of local authorities, but also damn Scottish water and SEPA, um, and other organizations like sort of, uh, clay gateway and Scottish canals, um, and other sort of slightly removed organizations, but key stakeholders for us.

Um, and the, the MGSDP really came about as a result of flooding that happened in Glasgow, primarily class school, and 2002. And, uh, following that flooding, um, there was quite a bit of finger pointing between organizations saying that was your fault. No, no, no. That was your fault. So, uh, the, the, the main organizations and the council and Scottish water, uh, working with SIPA and who’s the environment or regulated.

Basically. I said, look, we need to be doing a spit out. We need to stop pointing fingers at each other because you know, water doesn’t observe a constituency boundary. It doesn’t look to see whose papers going. And it just goes where water goes. So we need to have a joined up approach in terms of dealing with the, um, the impacts of, of flooding and trying to reduce flooding.

So the them GSTP was really born from that and needs to work more collaboratively, um, that, that needs to work more collaboratively became part of, um, I guess you see law in Scotland and so far, and in 2009, the flood risk management act puts a duty on certain organizations to, to work in a collaborative manner.

And that’s really been strained by the process that them GSTP has adopted in terms of working together. Um, so it’s. Originally stemmed from 2002 has been going for a long time, the mgs GSTP, but you know, to be in a modern forum, probably around 2009, but it’s really come from recognizing the need to walk with others, to try and reduce flood risk primarily, but then being able to put things into that as well.

Antoine Walter: So that means that your approach, which started almost 20 years ago, without those floods in 2002, became the law. Does that make you a pioneer? I mean, was it copying or emulating something resisting somewhere else or did you really create some

James Murray: well, I, um, I’m not sure we could ever claim to create it and a thing, or I created there have been the foster recognize that there is merit in working together.

Um, and you know, all, you know, a lot of big organizations have silos with a numb and between each other. Um, so yeah, whilst we wouldn’t clean to have come up with that idea, um, it’s certainly true that and formulating the legislation for the 2009 act, um, I think all organizations that were involved in the management of water in Scotland recognized that, yeah, there’s a, there’s an issue here.

We need to be working together better and putting something in the act or own that will help to ensure that happens. Um, because of what learning was being drawn out of those initial discussions as part of the, the M GSTP coming in.

Antoine Walter: You mentioned that the phone thing given was this floods and that the funding topic around what you were working was really this prevention of floods.

And you said also in the introduction that these old matter of engineering and hard to soft engineering transition has changed quite a lot over the past 20 years or a bit more. I can tell you a bit of my personal story here. My, my father, um, was a professor of hydraulic engineering and of river management.

So how do you prevent those floods? So I’ve been raised into, into the topics since, since as long as I recall, but when you say flood prevention, the first thing that comes to my mind is, oh, great. You can build a huge stuff out of concrete, uh, stones, upstream, downstream, and you’re going to control the river from, from the beginning to the end of you.

Region where you’re active and then whatever happens downstream is someone that is his problem. If I get your rights now that I made read this David David advocates approach, your approach is totally different, but was it from, from the one that you said you want to go to this soft side of things or.

Come on the way of this almost 20 years of history.

James Murray: Um, I think for what was also happening in parallel in the industry, certainly in the United Kingdom. Um, and, and certainly in Scotland was, um, the formulation of what. What we term as sustainable drainage sometimes referred to as sustainable urban drainage systems or suds that specially fold principles of best management practices that, that come from the U S um, quite a number of years ago.

And it’s basically around trying to manage water closer to where that lands, um, trying to get, trying to reuse surface water if we can, but certainly trying to slow it down and control it before it gets into the formal pate drainage network. So, um, since, uh, rowing the boat again, also as I’ve, and I’m going to struggle to get the dates rate here, but, um, yeah, the late, bleats sorry, early to late two thousands, Scott Scotland, Broughton sods legislation, um, under the water environment, water control act, and that basically requires any new development in Scotland.

So if you’re buying. Two or more houses, then you need to have sods as part of that. You need to have a sustainable drainage system. And that basically means that you need to have some form of attenuation and some form of water quality treatment for your development. Um, so suds is very much played a kid on trying to use natural, um, as far as possible methods to, to control water.

And, um, that very often well-meaning using green infrastructure, blue, green infrastructure as we use the term. Um, but also things like attenuation, um, that may be below ground. So not very good in, but at least pervading, attenuation, at least slowing down runoff as it comes off. Before it gets into the formal drainage network.

Um, and that’s really driven from recognizing that particularly in our urban areas. And this is the same all over the world. Um, during the systems, when it starts to be in any significant degree are usually very quickly at capacity. Um, the, the space and the dream of system is very quickly taken up. Um, no that’s particularly true for PA systems.

Um, but also for revers, uh, as we build more and more urban area with more and more impermeable surface sheds water more quickly. So, uh, yeah, as I say, as M just fuse coming together, the sides legislation came in for Scotland and that has helped to drive, um, the, the way that the M GSTP partners have been thinking about managing water and, um, moving less from, from trying to less concrete.

And big walls, et cetera, to managing water closer to where that lands, um, source control, slowing it down before it gets into the pipes gets into that of ours. Um, and using getting blue-green infrastructure where we can to do that. Um, one thing I would just pull you up on in terms of, um, the terminology, you know, we, we, we try not to, and I trip up over this, but we, we try not to uncertainly.

When we’re speaking with politicians or counselors, we, we try to avoid using the word prevent because, um, it’s, it’s about flood risk management. If we get enough rainfall, flooding will still happen. And we’ve had some recent experiences of that in Glasgow at the start of July. And the start of August had some intense, effectively summer thunder storms and the system just got swamped.

And in one particular location, the people flooded out their homes. Some of them are still out of their homes. Um, And, uh, there was a project delivered in that location, uh, about five or six years ago, a couple of million pounds worth of projects to pervade additional capacity in the system. And despite that these people were still flooded desk team and, um, you know, the quite naturally react and see a bit, but you told me I wouldn’t flood again, this project who did would prevent.

And someone probably they’d say that at the time, but this shouldn’t have, we shouldn’t have said prevent. We shouldn’t have said stop the flooding. We should have said, this will reduce the risk of flooding. But as if, you know, if you get enough rain, you’re probably still going to get some flooding. And it’s saying about managing what happens with that flooding when it does occur,

Antoine Walter: is it a difficult message to bring across?

Because somehow it’s saying, you know, engineering will not save you from everything. I mean, you have to be having a bit of humility. We are living within this. And sometimes nature is still stronger than we can anticipate.

James Murray: Absolutely. It’s very difficult to, to try and communicate particularly with, with non-technical people.

So, um, you know, I feel like Juul, public, uh, the man and woman on the street who doesn’t have a background in engineering, doesn’t have a technical background. If we, if we talk about reducing risk, they don’t understand what that means. If we talk about return periods, um, it’s very easy for them to misinterpret for return periods on what they mean.

Um, and an example being it’s very common for, for people to talk about a, a one in 100 year event. No, that doesn’t mean that event is only going to happen once every 100 years. That means it has got a 1% chance of happening in any given. But the public don’t understand that. Um, so, you know, you have to try and be careful with the language we use the terminology.

Um, but, but similarly, if we see it to someone, you know, it’s an event, that’s got a 1% chance of happening in any given year. They don’t really know what that means either. So it’s, it’s a difficult area. Um, but certainly trying to, and we, we continue to do this with our politicians and counselors, trying to stop them, seeing, you know, the scheme will prevent flooding.

The steam will stop flooding. We, we say, you know, see, it will reduce the risk of flooding. It will help to manage flooding. Um, it will help to, uh, reduce the impact of flooding, but, um, it’s very dangerous to see that something will stop flooding, um, because. Sod’s law says, you know, next year you’re going to get a big storm event and the flooding will happen.

And, um, you’ll, you’ll get a lot of flack and pressure from the police and from, from, uh, the people who are impacted by that.

Antoine Walter: Let, let me sidetrack, you hear a bit and I’m sorry for that, but I, so that’s, uh, in the, in the documentation you sent me that you noticed that the events were getting a bit worse over the past decade compared to the average of what they used to be before.

And to that extent, does our perception of what has one person chance of happening every year still pertain true with the consequences of climate change? Or do you also have to adapt they’re the thresholds and to say a Sentinel event is now something. Different from what it used to be. No books.

James Murray: Yeah.

It’s, it’s a, it’s a very good point. That, and again, something that’s difficult to communicate, but undoubtedly, with climate change, we are seeing, um, more rainfall in total. Uh, although, uh, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will always be, um, a lot of rain, you know, there will be dry periods of the say Scotland for the past three months has had well below average rainfall, but we have had a couple of days where we had intense funder storms and some are don’t, some are storms, um, that did cause flooding.

Um, and yes, schemes that were built, um, 10, 20 years ago that at the time using the cotton design gates, um, and, uh, the claim that allowances at the team, we would probably see that that scheme had been built again, using this. All terminology for, to protect to our a one in 200 year level of service nowadays that that may have gone down.

It may only be protecting to, again, to use the old way of referring to 160 year event level of protection. So yeah, with climate change, we are definitely seeing more in, um, and it will impact the level of protection that is being given to, um, to, to properties, to businesses that, that have had schemes delivered already.

Um, seeing that you very rarely get exactly a one and 200 year event. It will be a bit bigger than that, or a bit smaller. And that sort of, um, you know, the, the, the, the, the design criteria that’s used, um, should reflect your best understanding and, and the accepted principles at the team. But yeah, with climate change, um, yeah.

We are going to see more flooding. We are seeing more flooding happening

Antoine Walter: regarding this. Um, I try to, to be careful with the words I picked. So with this mitigation of flood events or with, uh, yeah, whatever you can do to, to, to smooth and the consequences of a possible flood event, there was one, uh, in, in the, in the list of projects that are so far from what you did, which honestly, I have never seen nowhere else in the world.

So maybe I might be really totally ignorant here. So you’re going to tell me, but that was this concept of the smart candle that you, uh, you can preventively notice that, um, metallurgically speaking, something will happen in the next days or in the next hours. I dunno. Um, so you can take the level of the candle and bring it down by 10 centimeters.

Gives you so much more retention and capacity. Hello. Tell us a bit about that. How did you come with the idea is it’s as new as it sounds or,

James Murray: yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s not a new principle, um, which, you know, at its core, the principle is, is using an existing asset and trying to get more value out of it.

Um, and it’s, it’s using an existing storage volume and trying to get more out of it in this case for, for, um, glass was smart canal, it’s using the fourth and clade canal. They have what we call a summit Poland section of the forest and clay canal that goes through the north of Glasgow. Um, th th the driver for it really was the fact that north Glasgow, God says as a was that is still.

Quite a lot of vacant and derelict clans, um, a legacy of posts and industrial use, or some, some contamination challenges and some of these areas of land, um, quite high levels of deprivations or, um, you know, low income communities, but, um, with the push to deliver more homes, more housing for people, um, that we really looked at north Glasgow and said, right, we know that there’s big areas of land here that we need to develop.

We very quickly came up against the issue that, um, and most of north glass school, there are barely any remaining sense. There’s certainly no remaining little small watercourses, you know, the little tributaries that go into the big rivers, uh, because over the years there were just particularly with the industry that, that took place in the north of clients.

They were just lost to the sewer system. You know, some of the sewers and north of Glasgow, one example is the parcel barn. You know, that used to be a barn, no, become a sewer. And that’s, that’s the name that we know the sewer line. It just gets swollen into the system. And that’s generally because it’s just too complicated to try and pick out all the pollution sources that are going in there.

So you just covered it and call it this year. Um, so yeah, so in, in Glasgow, you know, we, we, we want it to deliver a lot of regeneration. Um, we had these areas that we could do it, um, except we came up against a problem that there’s nowhere to put the surface water. And, um, we certainly couldn’t put it into the combined sewer because that would just cause flooding, there just wasn’t capacity when it rained, it was capacity for the fall element there, not the surface water.

So we looked at, you know, th th th th the two options we really came up with was build our drive a new tunnel from the north of Glasgow down to the clade, which 14 million pounds, something like that. Um, or could we do something

Antoine Walter: in we’re good to go.

James Murray: Okay. So, yeah. Um, so th th the idea for the smart cloud basically came from, um, having significant areas of north Glasgow that were vacant and dead elect, um, uh, derive to, to deliver more housing.

That’s a particular challenge in the UK, um, and wanting to, um, find a way to deliver that housing in the north of Glasgow, um, where we realized that the constraint on the housing, um, in addition to other things like contaminated ground, et cetera, was around the, um, drainage capacity. You know, the, the, the combined sewer in that area and convenience Euro, most of clients who just didn’t have capacity to take the surface water under the foal was faint, but the surface water couldn’t go in there.

Um, and there are no remaining small tributaries and water courses left in the north of clients where they’ve all been lost to the sewer. Um, so one option was to potentially drive out a tunnel all the way down to the clade, um, which you’re placed at maybe something like 40 million pounds. Um, the other option was to look at the canal.

The canal already moves water about central Scotland, um, and try and utilize that existing assets to, um, manage surface water for the north of classical. Um, saw the, the idea that was developed was to use weather forecast data, um, to look ahead and see when there’s a sense of fairness that are going to be a big storm likely to impact the north of Glasgow and install on the canal on the inlets to the canal controls and on the outlets from the canal controls.

So that when we, when the weather. Radar data tells us the storm’s coming, um, to up to 24 hours in advance or along section of the canal by only up to a hundred millimeters. So it’s not a huge amount that’s been lowered by. Um, but if we lower it by that much, all that available long stretch, then it provides a significant volume to Jack that sponge to soak up the water, the surface water coming off, these development sites.

Now each of the development states will have its own suds or so it will already be attenuating the, the, the floor to some extent, but they have limited capacity and they still need somewhere to discharge. So, um, using the, the, the weather forecast. Control the inflows, we can lower the outlets. Um, most of them are weird.

We just lower them a bit. And that drops the canal down by up to a hundred millimeters, which saying pervades the capacity for the surface water to come in when the storm hits. Uh, and, um, uh, Rainwater’s coming off surface water is coming off these development sites. Um, so it’s, it’s a fully autonomous, um, smart as is the badge that we give it.

Um, it’s, you know, it’s not a brand new concept I would see, but it’s a, it’s certainly the first thing that we had a, we had all that it’s been implemented on this scale and, um, it, uh, it is operational. Now we’re still catching up with building out all these development sites or the foster development site.

The floors, um, were connected just about two weeks ago. Um, and there’s more sites to come online, but the system is there. It’s operational. Well, honestly, don’t want to drop the debt to the canal too much, because that could have an impact and the stability of the banks of the canal, uh, and also would have a slight impact on navigation and the canal.

Um, so we don’t want to drop it too much, but, um, by dropping it a hundred mil pages, a significant volume, um, and allows us to regenerate significant areas of north Glasgow. So, um, it’s, it’s, you know, I get a, and um, I see no where we’re waiting for more areas to be connected and we’re waiting for a big storm to come to really tip.

Antoine Walter: Yeah. Which is kind of tricky because you, you, you have to wait for a storm, but on the other end, you don’t want to storm neither. So it’s a, it’s a bit. Yeah, absolutely.

James Murray: Yes, yes. And the other batch dads just do the question, people do ask is, so where does all that water you take out the canal gore and it goes to the river Kelvin, but, um, it goes to the river Kelvin before the storms arrived.

So, um, uh, the water has to get taken in terms of that where the hydrographs meet. It’s good time to put it into the Calvin, to put it into the, and oats to the, to the, uh, cost before the river. Calvin comes up because of any storms as well. That

Antoine Walter: brings me to another piece of the puzzle, which is the water quality, because if you were taking the first runoff of a storm and putting it in the kennel, that may be a problem because that, that first runoff is probably the most heavily polluted.

But on the other end, if you really look at all of that into a system, you mentioned that first, the sets are going to absorb the first wave, which means the part, which is the most polluted it’s going to stay somewhat somehow there and be treated naturally. And you only with brackets collects the run-ups, which are almost just rainwater to, to, to the kennel.

Is it really that, that systemic approach that you are.

James Murray: Absolutely. Yeah. There, the suds, as you say, um, and each development say that will have its own sods elements or, um, you know, the, the, the foster seat that is connected to St hell and it’s got basins and it’s got street trees and its rain gardens, and it’s got a linear canal feature.

Um, and all those sides of providing that initial bit of attenuation and also, um, water quality. So help me to treat the water before it goes into the canal. And what we do also have as part of the system is, um, various sensors in terms of not just floor, um, and level sensors, but also various water quality parameters that have been taken as well.

So, um, as the system starts to really bear down and, and the development sites are connected, we’ll also be able to track water quality and see what impact it has on the canal itself.

Antoine Walter: How networked is all of that? Because you mentioned that. Uh, said to something, which is if I got right mandatory from a, to a double house on, so up to much bigger, I guess, but, but starting with the, the, the double house, and I guess that’s on the, on the level of a double house, you probably don’t have a fully digital IOT, all the buzzwords, which I can drop at you, uh, which is implemented.

So what you are doing on the cannot probably you cannot do exactly the same in every small sets. So you also have a global approach to this full network of smaller pieces of the puzzle.

James Murray: I know it’s a big issue, I would say for the United Kingdom as a whole. Um, and certainly for Scotland, there’s that, um, you know, we, we designed put these two, two houses or more will require suds, but they’re generally don’t have any monitoring.

They don’t have any smarts attached to it. So, yeah. And Sally and Scotland and less, unless there is some reason someone, either phones up to complain about the quality of the state or the, the, um, the condition of a suds feature, then they’re not monitored proactively. Um, it will really just be reactive maintenance and saw for the smart canal system.

We do have some monitoring in the app because it’s it’s, um, um, because it’s important that we, we try and retain the good water quality that’s in the canal. Um, so we will be able to see if there’s a problem from any of the develop individual development sites. If there’s a problem in terms of what quality we will see that, but you know, for, for the rest of developments in Scotland, suds are not monitored in terms of quality or quantity.

They have a design there they’re constructed and the basically just leave it to county on now. And Scotland suds, sustainable drainage systems can generally either be maintained by the council. Um, so the city council will adopt some elements of sides. Uh, some will be adopted or a term is vested by Scottish water.

Um, and suds that are adopted are vested by a scotch water, or the council will have. Um, oh, you have more confidence in the maintenance that they are getting because they will have a maintenance plan, which talks about how often it should be inspected and you an inspection should then pick up any issues.

There’s a third strand to side says that quite a lot of sides will be privately maintained. So either by individuals or organizations, and, um, we have less confidence around how often they’re doing that maintenance, how often they’re doing that inspection. Um, but you know, it is the way the system set up in Scotland that you can have sides, elements that are privately maintained.

Um, and it does give us, I think, in the industry a little bit more, cause for concern as to what the, the quality of the maintenances and how quickly they would pick up any problems.

Antoine Walter: There’s one thing that’s really catchy. I have, sorry, that’s my French by English, something that caught my attention when it was reading your, your documentation, you have a strong take, which is you want to, to, to, um, to keep the water as much as possible on the surface first.

Why then? How is that perceived and how do you do bring the message forward that that is important that the water stays on the, on the surface.

James Murray: It’s, uh, it’s a challenge that it continues to be a challenge. Um, I think the developer community, so basically the contractors, the people who are designing homes and who are building homes, communities are getting better at it.

Um, the general public, I think as part of the wider growing claim, awareness are possibly getting better, but only really have scratched the surface on it. But yeah, if we can keep water on the surface, it just slows it down and it gives it a chance. It gives her a chance to be used by vegetation. Uh, it gives it a chance to be, um, evaporated by the sun, even, even in Scotland, um, before it gets into the drainage system.

So you can use up, we don’t tend to have much infiltration, certainly not in the west of Scotland, because we’ve got very heavy, clear soils that don’t lend themselves to infiltration. Um, but if we can, you know, take up and use some of the water by plants and, and, uh, by loss, by, um, uh, evaporation, then that just reduces the amount of it.

That’s getting into the Papes drainage network. So w you know, we’ll use basins and pollens and swales and rain gardens, all those sorts of futures. Try and slow it down, but also try and try and improve some of the quality of it as well, because a lot of sides, well, ultimately discharged to a river or a water course.

Um, so if we’re wanting to improve the quality of the water courses, then doing that treatment and quality upstream, coarser to the source profitably on the Sophos. Well, um, helped with that. The other thing about managing water on the surface is that it makes it much easier to see if you’ve got a problem and to see where that problem is, is it becomes obvious and.

Um, so it does make for easier management. Um, and you know, at the start of sides, it was really about quantity and quality. It was a bit slowing it down and improving the quality of the runoff from the seat. Those were the primary drivers, but I think, you know, all the industry recognizes these days. You can get so many additional benefits through managing water on the surface with blue-green infrastructure.

So there’s, there’s stuff around biodiversity there’s there’s, um, health, mental health benefits, there’s there’s um, heat to benefits, there’s air quality benefits, there’s, um, um, noise benefits through having more blue-green infrastructure. Uh, but we do come up against challenges on that and, and there are, there are 10.

Um, particularly in, um, developments, we are, uh, for developers that are ultimately looking to build as many houses as possible to maximize their profit. Uh, and some will see an argument that the nice blue green infrastructure helps to add value to the property so they can sell them for more. Um, but generally as they’re trying to get as many units as possible on a site that takes up the available land, um, and you have certain criteria for types of land that you need to pervade and provide some open space for that community and you need to provide parking for that community, et cetera.

So it introduces tensions around land use. Um, and if you’re having, if you’ve got sods, whereas managing water on the surface, then you obviously can’t park your car on top of a subspace and not a suds point. So it’s a little bit of tension now. So developers. We’ll generally try to put any sods below ground.

And, and in that case, you, um, arguably lose any water quality benefits. It’s more just about attenuation. Um, so there are, there are definitely tensions there with developers. There are still also tensions we find with local communities. We are, I think it’s, it’s particularly in Scotland. Um, maybe the UK, certainly when compared to our, our continental cousins, that we have a more risk averse approach to open bodies of water.

We are not as comfortable having open water around us. Now this is despite the fact that we’ve got a canal through partner Glasgow, and we’ve got one of our claims going through in so many areas. Um, You know, some people will perceive a point as being a danger to people are dingy or to life and Faust.

You know, there is a little bit of truth and that it represents such a small danger that when contrasted with the benefits that you can get from that, um, it’s, it’s usually outweighs the benefits usually where those risks, but, but some people in the communities still don’t want to have an open body of water where they think there’s a risk that a child will drone or something.

Um, it’s, it continues to be a source of frustration for us when we will have our whole community service by multiple roads. And, you know, people die on roads as well, but, um, in general people think, well, we need to have roads. We don’t need to have what are managed on the surface, put it in a pipe, put it underground.

And then that risk has gone. So it’s a challenge, but again, you know, we’re improving on that, where we’re getting the message out there as more and more of these suds are delivered. People, see them in the communities and are beginning to be more comfortable with them. Um, particularly if it’s a new build community.

So if the houses are being built at the same time as the sides, then people move into that community and the water. We’re an unfortunate, trying to do these days, M JCP is, is trying to do more retrofit. So we’ve got an existing community, existing homes that are already, I feel like used to not having water on the surface.

So when we come along and we say, we need to do some retrofit and we want to manage water on the surface, that that is particularly where the tensions come to the surface, because you’re, you’re the way they perceive it as you’re introducing a risk to them. They’ve already been used to living with the roads, for example, but they haven’t had open water.

So when you blame that to them, um, it does, it does prevent, present a bit of a challenge in terms of communication, understanding

Antoine Walter: there’s many things to uncover in what you just said. Uh, let me first, um, send the people back to a discussion I had on that microphone with Michael Stanley Gallisdorfer , where we were addressing.

The benefits of investing in a river in a city. And he was citing a study, which is showing that whatever dollar you invest into Rena to rating a river in the middle of the city, if you put all the benefits together, it’s $4 for one, which is not too bad as an investment. When you think of it, um, I’m really interested in the how, how do you convince people that that is the right way to do it?

What is your approach? How do you approach people to, to take them on board? Because you cannot change the way you manage water against a population. So I guess you must have kind of a way to take them on board.

James Murray: Yeah, I fly, I would say is that there’s always going to be some people you’re never going to convince.

Um, so you, you always, as you. Do a feasibility study into what as you want to do, and you have engagement as part of that. Um, and you try and explain to people what it is you’re doing and what the benefits will be. Um, one of the things we tend to find, or we can find is that, um, people, well, we’ll not, we’ll, we’ll be interested in the benefits for themselves, but not necessarily for other people.

So that can be to some extent, selfish, um, Some extent, that’s human nature. You want to see, do you want to, you want it to focus on things that are important to you and not necessarily to the person who’s doing the bottom of the hill, who’s being impacted by the flooding. So, you know, as you say, w what our doesn’t observe boundaries, um, you know, constituency boundaries or local area boundaries, a gauze with a wants to go.

And, and that, that is a challenge for, you know, if we are looking to put something further up the catchment, that’s going to provide us a flood risk benefit for, for the donor and the catcher and the people up the catchment are saying, well, what, what is in it for me? Um, Nope. You can talk about the, the, the benefits that we we’ve mentioned a bit biodiversity and heat and cooling, et cetera.

And, um, some people will be persuaded by that. And some people want, uh, particularly if you’re doing retrofit in the urban area, there are a couple of really what we found really sensitive areas for. Um, existing residents and, and that’s really going to be around, um, car parking, uh, and it’s going to be a round, uh, um, litter and it’s going to be around access for their property.

If you’re going to be reducing the number of car parking spaces and an area, um, it’s going to be very difficult to get everyone on board with that, but, um, if you can tie it in with active travel, um, measures that you also bring in as part of the overall scheme, then that can help to soften that outlaw for some people.

But yeah, I think it’s, it’s about trying to explain the, the overall benefits that are coming, um, and trying to get people to see that, uh, it’s a benefit, not what should just be a notch. Shouldn’t just be a benefit for their community, but for the wider community. But at the end of the day, you won’t get everyone on board with it.

There will still be people who don’t like it. Um, the other point, the other particular issue, which comes up time, and again, is trees. People are very passionate about trees, existing trees and losing trees. Um, and as you know, for a, for a number of the schemes that we’ve delivered, particularly if we are delivering a surface water intervention in an existing park, we will have to take down some trees to, to build that base and or that point, um, We, we always then plant some more trees, not necessarily on that same park, but it might be another park elsewhere in the city.

So, you know, we’re trying to keep that overall balance. And then the fact we’re planting more trees than we ever take down. But again, some people become very passionate about trees. Um, now as long as we’ve got the eight days of design and as long as we are comfortable that it’s, it’s needed to take down those trees and we don’t take down trees that we don’t need to, then, you know, we’ll, we’ll go forward with the scheme, but again, you won’t convince everyone that it’s the right thing to do.

Um, it’s interesting when we also talk about the benefits of, of delivering this. And, and how much benefit you get for, for the pony that you’re spending. The challenge that we have, and this includes even with colleagues within the industry, is who actually gets that benefit. How is that benefit realized?

Because if you’re talking about there, the mental health benefits of having nicer green space around during the urban area, it’s generally not Scottish water or the council that gets that as a direct poned in its pocket. It’s, it’s the health service. That’s getting that. So for Scotland overall, it’s, it’s, it’s beneficial, it’s the right thing to do.

But, um, for the person who is putting up the capital funding to deliver that project, they might not get that, that particular bit of the benefit. Now we will do our cost benefit analysis for the project. And as long as that stacks up, then yes, there’s a benefit to deliver it from a capital and funding point of view.

But these additional benefits may be realized by other sectors or the community or other organizations. Um, and, uh, you try and you try and draw the links to them to help make your argument for funding to deliver projects. But some people will just see, well, I’m not getting that Poland in my pockets, or that’s not going to convince me.

Um, it’s it says a challenge. It’s a challenge, but in general, we’ve had support for all the projects we’ve delivered. Um, the wall was be one or two dissenting voices.

Antoine Walter: Does that speak in favor of extending your approach to, to a broader scheme? I don’t know if it’s different in, in Glasgow than it is in, in other cities in Scotland, but, um, do you think your approach can be replicated.

Enhanced can become a national approach or does it, is it the perfect shape to say though the regional, um, the police in that area I run Glasgow is the, the best size in terms of magnitude of things.

James Murray: Yeah. I mean, it’s the general approach in terms of collaboration and, uh, engagement, and then trying to ultimately pool resources and deliver projects together, uh, can be applied in if we are.

Um, it is really in Scotland, it was M GSTP that foster started doing it as an area, but yeah, it can be applied in if we are and. The, um, the drivers might be slightly different in different places. Um, but you know, Glasgow, we’ve got the mix of all the drivers we’ve got, we’ve got existing flood risk, we’ve got water quality that we want to improve.

And the, and the, and the, the water environment, um, we’ve got regeneration and development that we want to deliver, uh, with are predominantly combined sewer catchments. That’s, you know, can take the fall, but it can’t take any more surface water. So, um, we’ve got the whole full range of circumstances. That’s, that’s helping to drive, um, a collaborative approach, but yeah, I think it can be delivered anywhere.

Um, but whether you need a formal organization like the mgs DP or whether it’s just a case of the main parties working together, um, you know, will be very much area specific, but they’re the, the thrust of going from. Blue green infrastructure, um, really is, has been rolled out across Scotland has been driven by Scottish government and we, you know, terms like placemaking and terms like what are resilient places are becoming much more, uh, common usage.

It’s been driven partly also by the claimant emergency. Um, people realize that I need to do something. I think one thing that I would reflect on is that, um, as part of the clown in emergency, um, there still is a huge focus on, on, um, climate mitigation and net zero. We must get to net zoo, uh, and claim adaptation still lags behind in terms of, uh, finance and delivery.

Um, so we certainly could do more with rebalancing that because even if we get to net zero by all the various targets that have been set by cities and governments around the world, um, we’re still got a lot of climate change we’re going to have to deal with. Um, no Glasgow’s already got flood risk and that’s just going to get washed with the changing climate.

So we need more adaptation and that is helping a bit, but, um, There still is a bit of a, I think this term, the adaptation gap, this gap between investment and action on mitigation versus adaptation, but that, that adaptation element is growing and that’s helping to deliver blue-green infrastructure as well because of the additional benefits.

Antoine Walter: What is your longterm game? What’s, we’ll tell you in some decades, I’ve seen 20, 60 as a whole horizon in your documentation that you you’ve made it, that you achieve something and you have in-between steps, which will tell you that you are on the right path.

James Murray: Um, so it’s a very good question, but very difficult to answer because, uh, personally, I don’t think we’ll ever get there because we’re going to be, you know, we we’d like to get to a stage where we don’t have any uncontrolled flooding and that means.

We recognize flooding will still happen, but we want to, we want to be able to manage where that flooding happens and how it happens. Um, so that’s, that’s, you know, putting in measures to reduce the risk of flooding, but also recognizing that with exceedance you’re still, and if you got a big enough storm event, you will still get flooding, but know you’re going to be managing queer.

That happens. You’re going to be recognizing that hopefully the work that you’ve done means properties aren’t flooding, but maybe rods will be flooding and that’s more acceptable. Certainly parks will be flooding because that’s more acceptable than roads flooding and roads is more acceptable than hoses or businesses flooding.

So we want to get to a point where we say, you know, we’re not going to have any uncontrolled flooding. Ultimately I don’t think we’ll have to get there. Um, but that’s, that’s the direction we’re going. And, um, so w you know, we haven’t put down any hard metrics to see if we’ve delivered X amount of investment, or if we’ve delivered X meter squared of blue gas infrastructure, then we will have done it because, you know, we will, I don’t think we’ll ever get there.

Um, we just need to keep working at it. It would be good to have, um, this, this, um, target for 2060, and the difficulty with having a target, that’s say 20, 60 is so far away that it doesn’t really engender any sense of urgency, but to the same extent. We think that, you know, is going to take as long as 20, 60 to get to the point where we think we probably have stopped uncontrolled flooding and it’s snow controlled flooding.

I, we know where it’s going to happen and we can manage that and we can manage the impact. So, um, so yeah, I, I don’t know if I directly answered your question, but I don’t know. I don’t think we will ever quite get there, but we’re going to get better and better, and we’re going to take those steps along the way.

But, you know, as we make those positive steps where we’re going to have to deal with climate change and we’re going to have to deal with more rainfall, no, we are going to be getting more reinforced and we are going to be getting those intense summer downpours are particularly difficult to manage. Um, and.

Other places. Um, I’m sure in Scotland, but also around the world are also having to contend with, um, squeeze on budgets for doing things like maintenance or, um, that, that presents a challenge as well. If we are delivering bluegill infrastructure that, you know, they just station grows and needs to have some level of maintenance.

So you need to allow for that in your funding cycles and for traditional, um, traditional, uh, ways of managing pate systems and roads, you maybe have to change the way you do things slightly, which, um, requires a little bit of art. There’s a little bit affliction near in terms of getting people to change the way they’re doing things in the way that they’re managing things.

But again, we’re, we’re going in the right direction. Um, but yeah, I, I don’t think we’ll ever quite get there, but we are delivering more, but it takes a lot of money. I mean, that’s, that’s the big, the, you know, the one thing that drives this, the new. New belt is relatively easy because we know we need to do, it’s trying to unpack the existing urban environment and the existing cities and tones where we’re not wiping it clean and starting again.

We’re having to work around those existing blocks of properties and streets, uh, and. infrastructure back in the eye, we’re trying to retrofit it. And my goodness that that’s expensive and it’s, it’s difficult to do, and it causes significant disruption. Um, and it’s not just to people’s homes, but it’s to people’s businesses as well.

So, um, you know, if you’re going to dig up a road to put in blue-green infrastructure, you might have roadworks there for a year, a year and a half, and that’s a significant impact upon our business. Um, so you need to consider those things as well and your projects as you’re delivering and what is for the overall pluses and minuses of what we’re looking to do here.

Um, but yeah, it’s expensive. You know, you get services everywhere. You’ve got, uh, you’ve got potentially in some, some areas contaminated, grown that you need to deal with. Uh, the other thing that we have here, and I’m sure it’s the same. In many other cities, Israel is conflicting priorities in Glasgow is trying to do a lot of, um, active travel measures and necessity.

Uh, someone that’s been very successfully done through COVID and it’s going to be retained long-term um, so if you’ve got a road that’s a certain size and you want to put in some blue-green infrastructure and you want to put on a cycle in that brings tension again, that brings tension between that of travel and the existing cars and congestion and flood risk and water quality and health and biodiversity benefits of this blue-green infrastructure.

So it’s not easy. It’s not easy.

Antoine Walter: Last question in that deep dive, what is your role in all of that?

James Murray: Um, I, my role is as well, I guess the, the, the. Um, possible where you could describe as mostly administrative. So I try mine tasked with trying to keep the, sort of behind the scenes wheels turning in terms of the mgs GSTP and the various partner organizations working together.

So a lot of that’s basic administration, um, but there’s project management in there. Um, I also get involved in a technical aspect, uh, relatively higher level on some projects as well. Um, I’m, you know, I get active in terms of involve engagement with the communities, um, on certain projects. But yeah, my role, I think is mostly, almost, almost behind the scenes, but helping to keep the, the, the fuels going and keeping the partners meeting, uh, ensuring that things are flowing smoothly in terms of information and engagement.

Antoine Walter: Well, James, it’s been a fascinating, deep dive into that. Living matter, which you are dealing with, uh, uh, Ms. GDP, um, I propose you to switch to the rapid-fire questions to run that forward discussion. Okay.

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Rapid fire questions:

So in that last section, I try to keep the questions short and the, your duty is to try to keep the answers short and not cutting the microphone.

But, um, we have to play by, by the rules of the game. I will do my. So my first question is what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and

James Murray: why? I think it was probably the smart canal, because it really is bringing forward. And so as soon as cliched, but 21st century technology, um, and bringing in that smart element, because there’s so much more, you can do, you know, you apply that smart process to other things.

So we’re, we’re, we’re about to build a couple of necessities in Glasgow that we’ll have, um, rainwater harvesting, but we’ll also link to weather forecasting. So, you know, rainwater harvesting, you tend to store a volume of water to reuse it in the building, uh, and reduce your portable water draw. Um, so these necessities will be.

When a storms forecast, they’ll drain down these tanks ahead of the storm. So that, that maximum capacity is available for attenuation when the rain does come. Um, so that the smart canal is really leading the way on that, that it has done a huge scale. Um, but you know, we’re, we’re going to see more of that happening and more of that rolled out across the settings.

Let me

Antoine Walter: sidetrack you here. So you see I’m guilty. I’m the one which is not going by the rules. Do you know, Brian Moloney? He’s the founder of Stormharvesters. It was on that microphone explaining how his company is aiming to do exactly that to, uh, to playing with, uh, to, to, to, to have the weather forecast and to then preventively empty some, some reserves and then use some green water as well in the building.

So if you haven’t listened to his interview, I would recommend you to have a look. And if you already know him,

James Murray: I’m familiar with the name, but I haven’t listened to the interview. I will do that. They’re um, yeah, it it’s, it’s, it’s kind of a no-brainer, you know, it just makes sense. It’s just when, when you bring in smart stuff, um, it has a level of complexity that then needs managed longer term.

And, um, yeah, it it’s, I guess the, the Luddite view would be it’s more to go wrong. Um, but I think that the benefits are clear to see if you can get that system up and running and working well. What’s your

Antoine Walter: favorite part of your current.

James Murray: Um, I think my favorite part is getting to skin to see, uh, a relatively high level, um, all the various things that the partners are doing.

So I am so plugged into all the different projects that the partners I’ve got underway so that I can help them share information and awareness and share that knowledge with our wider community. Um, so I really enjoy the fact that I am privileged to have that sort of overview of, of what people are doing.

And, um, there’s a lot going on that it really is a lot going on glass was, had a lot of investment, hundreds of millions, of pounds of investment, and there’s getting a lot more investment and there’s a lot more coming as well. Um, it’s, it’s sometimes a challenge when you’re asking for more money. People will say, but you know, you’ve already spent lots and lots of money.

They didn’t help fixed it yet. So I know we’ve still got a long way to go.

Antoine Walter: What is the trend to watch out for in the water industry?

James Murray: I think the trend to watch out for those again, the smart, um, so w we’ve touched on it a couple of times, it’s particularly if you’ve got existing assets that you can really make work a bit harder.

So, um, building new stuff, great. Let’s put the smart on that, and that should be relatively easy, but with all these existing assets, can we get more out of them by applying some technology by, by making them work a bit harder? And I think that’s the direction we’re going in because particularly with the climate emergency and carbon and, um, trying to reduce our carbon, then the more we can do with existing stuff, the better, because if we have to build new stuff, then that’s carbon intensive.


Antoine Walter: What is the thing you care about the most when you’re working on a new project and what is the one you care the least.

James Murray: Um, I think I care most when Rocky, our only project, probably our own probably on the, on the money, because it it’s, it’s the money that deceives it’s the cost that decides whether it will go ahead or not.

And if you know, some of the projects that we’ve delivered, we’ve had to trim out elements of the scope as we’ve gone along, because costs have gone up for a variety of reasons. Um, you know, whether it’s it’s more services or contamination, um, or just unexpected stuff, or whether it’s for things like COVID, um, and the, the costs and delays that, that resulted in, or whether that’s things.

Breaks and getting supplies and materials now and, and all that. Um, so I cared about the cost because if you don’t look at the bottom lane, then the project’s probably not going to go ahead or it’s not going to deliver all that you want it to deliver. Um, or Ikea. Yeah. What do I care listed there? I probably care least about the, um, hopefully there’s the clash from my previous answer, but the program.

So yes, if your program stretches out is generally going to cost you more, but, um, you know, if you’ve got handle on those costs and you can, you can manage the costs and I’m not too bothered about it. Getting done exactly on. As long as it gets done, um, now has a knock-on impact for many other things, um, in terms of the overall program.

But ultimately I want, I want to deliver that thing. If I’ve decided it’s the right thing to do, I’ve got the money to deliver it. Then I want to see that done. I want to see it finished. Um, no matter how long it takes,

Antoine Walter: do you have sources to recommend, to keep up with the water and wastewater market trends?

James Murray: And I think the, probably the best website for the UK as a whole is one called Sostrin, um, S U S D R E I N. Um, and that really focuses on sustainable drainage, um, across the whole of the UK. So it’s got good examples of projects and there, um, it’s got good links to case studies. It’s got good reference to, uh, key sources of literature.

Um, so yeah, that’s probably the place to go, I think, in the UK or. Accepting naughtiness that there are differences and the UK is Scotland, England Wales, even Northern Ireland have different, slightly different setups and slightly different ways of doing things. Um, but yeah, it’s Australia I think is probably the best website.


Antoine Walter: I put the links in the show notes. If you’re, you’re looking for that, um, would you have someone to recommend me that I should definitely invite on that same microphone?

James Murray: Well, that’s a, that’s a good question. And I would see. If you can get hold of a person called Julie Walden who works for Edinburgh city council, um, Julie’s actually been, uh, has won the title of the champion of the year, um, uh, for this, this year.

Um, so Julie’s doing pushing a lot and, um, Edinburgh city council in terms of, again, bluegill infrastructure and placemaking and resilience and adaptation. So yeah, I think, I think Julia would be a good person to try and get on.

Antoine Walter: Well, Jim, this has been a pleasure to spend that a bit more of an hour with you.

Um, I’d love to, to see how, how you’ll be presenting all of that in the upcoming events. Um, you, you mentioned shortly before we started and we pushed the record button today that, uh, you’ll be involved with cop 26, which is, I guess, a big chunk of bread on your table.

James Murray: Yeah. So there’s, there’s a, there’s a lot, a lot going on for cop 26.

Um, I think the difficulty for, for any organization or initiative during cop 26 is just trying to be seen because there’s going to be so much going on. Um, but yes, it’s certainly going to keep us busy. It’s a big focus for Glasgow as a city. Um, it comes with its usual challenges around policing and access and there will undoubtedly be protests as well.

And it’s good that the community makes its voice heard. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s certainly a busy team at the moment. Um, and certainly on, on mgs GSTP stuff, I can talk for ages on that.

Antoine Walter: Well then I’m looking forward to us, those next talks, which you will be giving. Thanks a lot.

James Murray: Thank you, Antoine is good to talk to.

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