Groundwater in the Clyde valley

The BGS are researching the hydrogeology of the superficial deposits within the Clyde valley to further characterise groundwater levels and the groundwater chemistry in the different geological units. This work should help us better understand the issues highlighted for Glasgow’s water environment and help answer the key questions identified by stakeholders.

We are also developing a pilot groundwater monitoring network for Glasgow.

Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, is a hub of economic growth and a place of continued regeneration; at its heart is the River Clyde, which flows through the city.

The River Clyde, once host to the ship building industry, is now best known for its amenity value. There are many new developments on its banks, such as the Commonwealth Games Village and the Clyde Gateway, that take advantage of the riverfront views.


With ongoing regeneration of former industrial sites and continued growth within Glasgow, we need to understand more about the water environment of the River Clyde valley, including the shallow groundwater system.

Shallow groundwater can flow to streams and rivers and affect the quality and quantity of water in these surface water ecosystems.

The shallow hydrogeology of the Clyde valley is characterised by a highly variable sequence of Quaternary deposits formed during successive glacial and post-glacial events.

The highly variable geology makes it more challenging to characterise the behaviour of the shallow groundwater system beneath the city and create conceptual and numerical groundwater models.

Glaciofluvial deposits left by glacial meltwater steams and deltaic deposits, formed in ice-dammed lakes, are common. Relative sea level rise during warmer inter-glacial periods has also led to the deposition of shallow marine deposits within the Clyde valley.

Some of these glacial deposits are dominated by clay and have low permeability (e.g. the Wilderness Till), while others are sand-rich and more permeable (e.g. the Bridgton Sand Member).

The main geological units of interest to the hydrogeology of the Clyde valley are described below.

Cross-section across the River Clyde valley in central and eastern Glasgow

Geological unit Dominant lithology Depositional environment
Made ground variable man-made
Gourock Sand Member silty sand marine, estuarine
Paisley Clay Member gravelly clay glacio-marine, estuarine
Bridgton Sand Member sand glacio-marine, delta
Broomhouse Sand and Gravel Formation sandy gravel glaciofluvial, delta
Wilderness Till Formation variable clay glacial

Groundwater research in the Clyde valley

At present, our understanding of shallow groundwater systems in the Clyde valley is limited, in part due to lack of data. However, key stakeholders such as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Glasgow City Council require information about groundwater to help make the right decisions for Glasgow city.

Some of the key issues for the groundwater environment of the Clyde valley are:

  • Groundwater quality:
    In which areas of the city is the groundwater quality poor as a result of its industrial legacy and what can be done to resolve the problem?
  • Groundwater flooding:
    Are there areas of the city which have shallow groundwater levels and are prone to groundwater flooding?
  • Sustainable drainage systems (SuDs):
    Where in the city can SuDs be installed to help manage surface water effectively?
    What type of SuDs systems are most appropriate?
  • River Clyde and its tributaries:
    Are they fed by shallow groundwater?
    Does this affect the amount of flow in the rivers and their water quality?


Please contact Brighid Ó Dochartaigh for further information.