A pioneering environmental recovery project that will turn the Forth Valley into a living laboratory was launched to an international audience on Monday at global climate summit COP26.
The Forth Environmental Resilience Array (Forth-ERA), directed by the University of Stirling, will use state-of-the-art technology – including sensors, satellites, artificial intelligence and digital fabric, such as 5G – to monitor the Firth of Forth catchment in real time.
It will collate environmental data, including important information on water quality and quantity, and use the intelligence gathered to drive clean growth and support the region in its transition to net zero.
The data collected will be made available to communities, agencies, businesses and organisations, to help support decision making, create jobs and support the new infrastructures required for a net zero economy.
Scotland Hydro Nation Chair, Professor Andrew Tyler, of Scotland’s International Environment Centre at the University of Stirling, is leading the project, which is funded through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.
He said: “We are already feeling the effects of climate change through water, in flood and drought, but water offers solutions too, in resilience to extreme events, and in carbon capture and emissions reduction.
“Forth-ERA will provide a platform for green economic recovery by providing business, industry and regulators with access to live data, analytics, and dynamic monitoring capabilities, helping to inform agile decision making and an informed approach to cleaner, greener ways of working.”
Working alongside data platform 3DEO, BT supported the technical design and deployment of a test site in the first phase of project.
The technology enabling Forth-ERA can now be applied in a wide range of settings and sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, the food and drink industry, shipping and navigation, biodiversity and conservation, oil and gas, renewables and low carbon, green tourism, heritage, local and national government and public health.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is already working with the Forth-ERA team on several uses of the technology, including the potential for systems to support monitoring and predicting bathing water quality in real time, and to establish early flood warning and monitoring.
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Scottish Water will use Forth-ERA’s capabilities to monitor water quality in drinking water reservoirs, while the team will also be working with NatureScot and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to explore how the technology can be used to measure the benefits of projects to restore peatlands and rivers.
A range of businesses and industry can benefit from the technology – including those seeking to address challenges posed by the transition to net zero – by modelling the impacts of interventions, for example, and going beyond environmental compliance.
Drinks giant Diageo is working with Forth-ERA to monitor temperature and conductivity changes in the water around their Cameronbridge distillery, in Leven, Fife, to inform their operations and understand their local environment.
Forth-ERA will support the goals of the Scotland Hydro Nation Chair – hosted by the University of Stirling, led by Professor Tyler and funded by Scottish Water – which aims to bring Scotland’s water sector together in the drive to net zero and beyond.
Forth-ERA is a flagship project of Scotland’s International Environment Centre at the University of Stirling, which is funded by the UK and Scottish Governments as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, with additional funding leveraged through private investment. The Centre brings together academic researchers and external partners from industry, government, regulators and regional stakeholders.