BUSINESSES that interact with aspects of the water system will be the first to benefit from plans to establish Scotland's International Environment Centre in Alloa.

As reported in the Advertiser, plans to kick-start Scotland's International Environment Centre (SIEC) have been approved last week as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Deal.

A key project in phase one will be the Forth Environmental Resilience Array (ERA) as well as a high performance data analytics centre and visualisation hub with the business plan revealing more details about the project.

Forth ERA will be a "ground-breaking" regional scale living laboratory and will take two years to develop.

Documents for the business case reveal the array will have the capability to understand the full water system continuum.

Forth-ERA will be unique in its ability to "harness Earth observation (EO), water quantity and water quality techniques coupled to fixed and mobile sensor networks to better understand and validate the activities within the water system as a whole".

The system will use advancements in modelling and artificial intelligence with forecasting and so-called "now-casting" capability.

This will be made accessible to a range of industries, regulators and national bodies across multiple sectors, many of whom had only considered fragmented aspects of the water system.

Detailed cases for using the array have been developed together with SEPA, Scottish Water and Diageo with documents saying that companies and organisations that interact with water will be the first to benefit.

Data gathered and analysed will be used to mitigate flood risks and monitor water quality for drinking and bathing, for instance.

The project is being driven forward with the University of Stirling which has also developed a further use case with NatureScot, focusing on an application for the restoration and monitoring of peatlands.

Forth-ERA will increase the accessibility of data "at a scale and pace never seen before", according to the business case presented last week.

The array will support Scottish Water with innovative solutions to monitor drinking water quality with a focus on harmful algae blooms.

These can occur during the summer with warm weather and low rainfall – for instance the blue-green algae which has been blighting Gartmorn Dam this year.

This will play a crucial role as there is an increased risk that drinking water reservoirs will be affected more and more by algae blooms due to climate change.

For spirits producer Diageo, the array could be useful in monitoring incoming cooling water, charting seasonal changes.

The use-case is built around the company's Cameronbridge facility on River Leven, the largest grain distillery in Scotland.

The ERA will be delivered as a "public good", representing a chance to position Scotland as a global leader in water management.

It will also put the region firmly within the Earth observation (EO) marketplace, which was valued at £32billion in 2017, growing at around 15 per cent each year and reaching £48billion last year.