Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC)

Decision Center for a Desert City

DCDC II will launch its new website in Fall 2011. 

Since 2004, DCDC has served as one of five research projects funded by the National Science Foundation's Decision Making Under Uncertainty initiative. DCDC research, outreach and educational activities have focused on water management decisions in central Arizona in the context of the area's rapid population growth and urbanization, complex political and economic systems, variable desert climate, and the specter of global climate change. Although DCDC has been a regional case study, its research products and decision-support tools can be generalized to rapidly growing desert regions worldwide.

Over the six years of its first phase, DCDC has emerged as a "boundary organization," working at the interface of science and policy, coproducing new knowledge in partnership with the water management community. Through WaterSim, DCDC's simulation and decision tool, and extensive scientific research, it has developed "what if" scenarios of the future, using them to explore the potential, even likely, consequences of today's decisions. Engaging with stakeholders in the government, industry and the public, it has explored key questions, applying the best available scientific and institutional knowledge, and collaborating closely with water managers and policymakers to answer them. During its run, DCDC I produced nearly 200 publications, including five books, 50 book chapters and 138 journal articles.

Now in its second phase, DCDC II continues, expands and refines this mission, applying lessons learned and building upon the foundations laid to generate new knowledge about urban-system dynamics and decision-making in the face of long-term environmental risk. By improving adaptation and planning strategies, based on the best available social science understanding of individual motivations and societal norms, it will be possible for cities to become less climate-sensitive. In the process, DCDC II will also help to produce the next generation of researchers, transdisciplinary scholars that can move easily between the worlds of science and policy.

WaterSim

The Decision Center for a Desert City has created WaterSim on the Web, an interactive tool that brings science to the general public. It allows you to explore future water scenarios for metropolitan Phoenix in an easy-to-understand format. With WaterSim at your command, you can gauge water availability in response to changes in climate conditions, drought, population growth, urbanization, land use, and technological innovation, as well as test policy decisions about the built environment, landscaping practices, and recycled water.

Using WaterSim Explorer, users move decision-input levers and instantly view potential outcomes. Using WaterSim Scenario Builder, you can compare, side-by-side, two different scenarios. These features, along with the historical and geographical background provided, make WaterSim a powerful instructional and informational resource.

Strategic Plan

DCDC II VISION

DCDC II is an interdisciplinary research center advancing knowledge, education, and community outreach for urban climate adaptation. Within the Center's activities:

  • Research, learning and outreach are synergistic activities that feed upon and reinforcing one another.

  • Discovery occurs at the intersection of basic and applied research where new strategies are found to address real‐world societal problems.

  • New data collection and analysis is adequately mixed with synthetic discoveries based on integrating existing data, models, and knowledge.

  • Problem solving is adaptive and reflexive, building upon past experiences and lessons learned in other centers engaged in the newly evolving field urban climate adaptation.

  • Emphasis is placed on feedbacks and nonlinearities that produce unintended consequences and reveal hidden vulnerabilities in complex urban resource systems.

  • Scenarios, simulation modeling, and principles of decision making under uncertainty build capacity to anticipate the future.

DCDC II MISSION

  • Develop new understandings of how complex urban systems will function in a changing climate.

  • Translate climate modeling and research into tools for managing complex urban systems in the face of climate change and other environmental risks.

  • Build a boundary organization in which science is informed by and informs policy and decision making.

  • Develop and implement learning opportunities at the boundary of science and policy for students interested in urban climate adaptation.

  • Communicate the need for urban climate adaptation to decision makers and larger public audiences.


Strategic Plan 2010-2015

Annual Reports

2010 Annual Report
2009 Annual Report
2008 Annual Report
2007 Annual Report
2006 Annual Report
2005 Annual Report

Research Areas

Vulnerability

Some people and places are at greater risk than others in the face of climate change, rapid growth, and institutional factors. DCDC examines vulnerability to water shortage in Greater Phoenix and in the upland watersheds upon which it depends for water. Researchers investigate the physical, social, and institutional factors that put people and their communities at risk, how aware they are of relevant risk, and what actions are most effective in mitigating risk.

Modeling and Evaluation

DCDC uses a complex integrative model to anticipate the effects of climate conditions, rapid growth, and policy decisions on future water supply and demand conditions in Phoenix. The model, dubbed WaterSim, is shown in the Decision Theater where regional water managers and other decision makers can experiment with and discuss the model, and where DCDC social scientists can investigate the water decision making process. WaterSim on the Web also is available online, along with a body supporting information to help users understand what they are seeing.

Education and Outreach

DCDC is engaged in water education at a variety of levels, ranging from K-12 to graduate education. Activities include water education workshops for water providers and teachers and the development of new classroom materials such as learning modules, an online atlas, and WaterSim on the Web. DCDC offers research experiences and internships for undergraduates and seminar classes in decision making under uncertainty for graduate students.

Climate Change and Urban Heat Island

DCDC seeks a more complete understanding of the local and regional climate conditions that influence Phoenix's water supply and demand. Studies include efforts to improve drought prediction, downscale general circulation models to the watersheds upon which Phoenix depends for its water, estimate the uncertainty in runoff associated with climate change models, represent the urban heat island and predict its characteristics with future growth, and evaluate the effects of the urban heat island on water use.

Water Demand and Decision Making

DCDC studies the factors influencing water demand and how different policies, attitudes, and behaviors might mitigate the increasing demand for water in Phoenix. Projects include small-area water demand forecasting, analyses of the future effects of water conservation policies on residential water use, studies of the values and objectives of water stakeholders, and studies of the way environmental values structure people's water use and conservation attitudes.

Science and Policy

DCDC operates at the boundary of science and policy and investigates ways to more easily cross that boundary. Researchers interact on a regular basis with the regional water community and consider their views in the development of WaterSim and project management. In addition, several researchers are studying how decision makers view and engage with scientific products and how the social networks of scientists and policy makers evolve with participation in DCDC.

Personnel

Co-Directors

  • Patricia Gober, Co-Director; Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
  • Charles Redman, Co-Director; Professor, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • Dave White, Associate Director; Associate Professor, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University

Personnel

  • Liz Marquez, Program Manager, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Ariane Middel, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Estella O'Hanlon, Office Specialist Sr., Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Annissa Olsen, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Ray Quay, Research Professional, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • David Sampson, Research Scientist, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Sally Wittlinger, Research Analyst, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University

Executive Committee

  • Patricia Gober, Co-Director; Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
  • Craig Kirkwood, Professor, Supply Chain Management, Arizona State University
  • Liz Marquez, Program Manager, Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
  • Margaret Nelson, Associate Dean, The Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University
  • Charles Redman, Co-Director; Professor, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • Dave White, Associate Director; Associate Professor, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University

External Advisory Committee

  • Tom Buschatzke, Water Resources Management Advisor, City Manager's Office, City of Phoenix
  • Susan Cutter, Director, Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, University of South Carolina
  • Lisa Dilling, Fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • William Easterling, Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Linda Mearns, Director, Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Ed Miles, Senior Fellow, Joint Institute for the Study of Oceans and Atmosphere, University of Washington
  • Kathryn Sorensen, Water Resources Coordinator, City of Mesa Water Resources
  • Graham Symmonds, Senior VP of Operations and Compliance, Global Water

Contact Information

Mail:

Decision Center for a Desert City
Global Institute of Sustainability
Arizona State University
PO Box 878209
Tempe, AZ 85287-8209

Additional Information:

21 East 6th Street, Suite 126B
Phone: (480) 965-3367
Fax: (480) 965-8383
dcdc@asu.edu

DCDC is part of Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability. We are located off-campus in the Brickyard Orchid House building (BYOH) on Sixth Street east of Mill Avenue in Tempe. Please feel free to contact us. We are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

DCDC II is one of four NSF-funded programs studying Decision Making Under Uncertainty. The NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.