The Center

Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University (ASU) was established in 2004 with an investment from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) program. DCDC’s mission has been to advance knowledge about decision making under uncertainty in the context of water sustainability and urban climate-change adaptation.

DCDC, a research unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, conducts climate, water and decision research, and develops innovative tools to bridge the boundary between scientists and decision makers. With renewed NSF funding in 2010, DCDC II expanded its research agenda, trained a diverse new group of students, and engaged a wide range of stakeholders in the cooperative production of knowledge and action.

In the grips of long-term drought, the Colorado River Basin (CRB) and the cities that rely on its water, face unprecedented challenges and significant uncertainty with a warming climate and large-scale land use change. They are developing new water resource policies for a future of increasing uncertainty. Now, water managers and decision makers of cities of the CRB will be able to take greater advantage of Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City thanks to a new $4.5 million National Science Foundation award.

The four-year award, the third made to DCDC in its 10-year history, brings the total NSF investment to DCDC to $18 million. It will allow ASU to expand the geographic scope of DCDC’s work beyond Arizona to include cities dependent upon Colorado River water in states like Colorado, Nevada and California to explore transformational changes that will be necessary to sustain water supplies well into the future.

Decision Making Under Uncertainty at NSF

Climate change and related long-term environmental risks pose great challenges to decision makers, including private citizens; informal and formal groups, firms, and organizations; and governments at all levels from the local to state, national, and international levels. Both dangers and opportunities exist when decision makers incorporate climate change and other long-term environmental risks into decisions.

The National Science Foundation has funded a group of Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) collaborative groups for the past five years. The goals of DMUU collaborative groups have been to support research, education, and outreach that increase basic understanding of decision-making processes and of the information needed by decision makers; to develop tools to support decision makers and increase their ability to make sound decisions; and to facilitate interaction among researchers and decision makers. In addition, NSF’s Human and Social Dynamics priority area supported interdisciplinary groups that addressed questions related to change and dynamics in human systems more broadly.

The DMUU collaborative groups competition drew upon both of these past experiences to address the need for larger-scale projects addressing decision making under uncertainty with respect to climate change and other long-term environmental change. NSF seeks to stimulate societally beneficial research that will enhance basic theoretical understandings in the social and behavioral sciences as well as related fields of science and engineering.

In addition to DCDC, the following institutions were awarded NSF cooperative agreements in 2010 for Decision Making Under Uncertainty: