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New DCDC Publication

December 12, 2013

Impact of urban form and design on mid-afternoon microclimate in Phoenix Local Climate Zones


Ariane Middel, Center for Integrated Solutions to Climate Challenges, Arizona State University

Kathrin Häb, Department of Computer Science, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany

Anthony J. Brazel, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University

Chris A. Martin, Science and Mathematics Faculty, School of Letters and Sciences, Arizona State University

Subhrajit Guhathakurta, Center for Geographic Information Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology


ArianeMiddel_figureThis study investigates the impact of urban form and landscaping type on the mid-afternoon microclimate in semi-arid Phoenix, Arizona. The goal is to find effective urban form and design strategies to ameliorate temperatures during the summer months. We simulated near-ground air temperatures for typical residential neighborhoods in Phoenix using the three-dimensional microclimate model ENVI-met. The model was validated using weather observations from the North Desert Village (NDV) landscape experiment, located on the Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus. The NDV is an ideal site to determine the model’s input parameters, since it is a controlled environment recreating three prevailing residential landscape types in the Phoenix metropolitan area (mesic, oasis, and xeric). After validation, we designed five neighborhoods with different urban forms that represent a realistic cross-section of typical residential neighborhoods in Phoenix. The scenarios follow the Local Climate Zone (LCZ) classification scheme after Stewart and Oke. We then combined the neighborhoods with three landscape designs and, using ENVI-met, simulated microclimate conditions for these neighborhoods for a typical summer day. Results were analyzed in terms of mid-afternoon air temperature distribution and variation, ventilation, surface temperatures, and shading. Findings show that advection is important for the distribution of withindesign temperatures and that spatial differences in cooling are strongly related to solar radiation and local shading patterns. In mid-afternoon, dense urban forms can create local cool islands. Our approach suggests that the LCZ concept is useful for planning and design purposes.


Ariane Middel, Kathrin Häb, Anthony J. Brazel, Chris A. Martin, Subhrajit Guhathakurta, Impact of urban form and design on mid-afternoon microclimate in Phoenix Local Climate Zones, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 122, February 2014, Pages 16-28, ISSN 0169-2046,

DCDC Decadal Synthesis on Climate, Urbanization, and Water in Metropolitan Phoenix

December 3, 2013

DCDC_FrontWindow_LizMarquez_264In anticipation of its 10-year anniversary, Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) has released a major new report, "Advancing Science in Support of Water Policy and Urban Climate Change Adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A Synthesis of Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, Water, and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty." The report summarizes the center’s major achievements in research, education, and community and institutional outreach since its founding in 2004.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and organized under ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, DCDC is focused on water sustainability, urban climate adaptation, and decision-making under uncertainty. The center pursues research, in close collaboration with stakeholders, to create a more sustainable future. Research and modeling efforts analyze interacting factors such as population growth and economic development, climate change and variability, water supplies and demands, and governance to inform water management and other environmental decisions among diverse stakeholders.

DCDCsynthesis_TechnicalReport_2013octThis report was authored by co-investigators Kelli Larson, Dave White, Pat Gober, Craig Kirkwood, V. Kerry Smith, Margaret Nelson, and Charles Redman, along with research professional Sally Wittlinger.

"This synthesis of DCDC findings was essential for us to back up and say, ‘What have we learned from it all, and where are we going next?’" says Kelli Larson, the report’s lead author and a co-principal investigator at DCDC.

Since its founding, DCDC participants have published over 340 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and supported 69 graduate students who have authored 18 doctoral dissertations and 17 master’s theses. In addition, more than 70 undergraduate students have been involved in DCDC’s research through the Internship for Science-Practice Integration, the Community of Undergraduate Scholars program, and other research assistantships.

"The most challenging and complex sustainability problems facing society today—like climate change—require a new approach to science," says Dave White, DCDC principal investigator and co-director. "We must combine interdisciplinary science within the university with meaningful stakeholder engagement. This ‘transdisciplinary’ approach is reflected in the report, which synthesizes DCDC’s most important findings across a diverse range of disciplines and identifies the most pressing new issues."

The report recaps the history and role of DCDC within scientific and policy dialogue and then plunges into the research results that have been produced over the years. A major theme is the challenge for cities to provide and maintain secure and reliable water supplies despite an uncertain future that will likely include warming temperatures, reduced precipitation, and more extreme weather events such as droughts, fires, and floods.

"Key findings across DCDC research have revealed uneven spatial and social vulnerabilities to water scarcity and other risks, as well as inevitable tradeoffs and uncertainties in decision-making," Larson says. "To cope with the complexities of environmental change, collaborations, and social learning across different actors—such as scientists and policy makers, water managers and land use planners—is essential for urban sustainability."

The report covers topics ranging from climate models used to predict how climate change affects water supplies and demands to analyses on risk perceptions and policy attitudes regarding water resource sustainability. DCDC participants have also contributed substantially to the ASU portfolio of research into climate dynamics including the potential for climate change scenarios to affect regional water resources, in addition to localized urban heat island (UHI) effects and especially their impact on water resources. This work has involved analyzing how urban land-use and land-cover patterns interact with climatic factors to affect water demands.

One of the signature products of DCDC, WaterSim, is described in detail in the report. WaterSim is a systems dynamics model used by researchers, educators, and decision-makers to explore scenarios of climate change, population growth, and how policy choices could alter water supply and demand in central Arizona.

Since its inception, DCDC has served as a type of "boundary organization" designed to bring together academic researchers with diverse stakeholders to ensure that science is not only credible, but also relevant for decision-making. In this role, DCDC has engaged with its partners through educational activities including joint research projects and collaborative workshops. Many of these activities are highlighted throughout the report.

Should We Demolish Glen Canyon Dam?

October 16, 2013


Glen_Canyon_Dam_WikimediaArizona Republic environmental reporter Brandon Loomis investigates the wicked problem of keeping or destroying Glen Canyon Dam, a decision that seems to have no positive outcomes. Water managers, some scientists, and activists would like to see the dam removed in order to drain Lake Powell and feed a drought-stricken Lake Mead, a water source for major cities including Las Vegas and Phoenix. Draining Lake Powell would also return Glen Canyon to its former, natural glory.

However, some suggest negative consequences if the dam is to be removed. ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City co-director and senior sustainability scientist Dave White says removing Glen Canyon Dam would rid thirsty cities of a captured and stored water supply.

"(Dam removal) would be fairly catastrophic," White says. "We have too much demand on an annual basis to be met by the natural in-flow of the river."

He says if anything, Glen Canyon Dam would be re-designed, improved, and repaired.

Continue reading the article at

October 16 DCDC Water/Climate Briefing

October 4, 2013

October 16, 2013 - Effective Communication of Scenarios and Scenario Analysis for Decision Making

Scenarios are one method to describe the complexity and uncertainty inherent within the management of complex systems.

The development and analysis of these scenarios is an effective method to synthesize simple facts about a system’s complexity and uncertainty that can be used as a guide for decisionmaking.

Our panelists will focus on how to communicate effectively scenarios and scenario analysis to a wide audience of the general public, policy professionals, and political decision makers in order to facilitate effective and sustainable system management.

Join the conversation!


Charles A. Cullom

Manager, Colorado River Programs

Central Arizona Project

Arnim Wiek

Associate Professor

School of Sustainability

Arizona State University

Wally R. Wilson

Chief Hydrologist

Water Resources Management

Tucson Water

Ray Quay


Director of Stakeholder Relations

Decision Center for a Desert City

Arizona State University

RSVP Today

Contact Estella O'Hanlon.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 12:00-1:30 p.m.


Decision Center for a Desert City, 21 East 6th Street, Suite 126B, Tempe [Map]


ASU Hiring in Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering

October 1, 2013

The Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU) seek applicants for a nine-month tenure-track/tenured faculty position in hydrology and water resources engineering. Research areas of interest include, but are not limited to: water resources sustainability, hydrologic informatics, and interactions of water infrastructure with climate, land cover change or public health to grow and strengthen our efforts in the Sustainable Water Initiative. We seek candidates that integrate multiple tools, including field/remote sensing observations and advanced data analysis and computational models.

Faculty in the Fulton Schools of Engineering are currently involved in several multidisciplinary research and teaching efforts aimed at addressing water resources sustainability challenges. Faculty are engaged, for example, in the study of interactions of urban infrastructure, climate and water, use of novel sensing platforms in the built and natural environment, high performance computing of coupled hydrologic and atmospheric flows, and development of decision support systems for stakeholder engagement. Close collaborations also exist with faculty across the university, including faculty from the Global Institute of Sustainability, School of Earth and Space Exploration, School of Life Sciences, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Decision Center for a Desert City. This search is aimed at further broadening and strengthening this interdisciplinary collaborative enterprise through complementary research and teaching activities.

Successful candidates should have a Ph.D. degree in Civil or Environmental Engineering or a field closely related to hydrology or water resources engineering. Required qualifications also include demonstrated evidence of research capability as appropriate to the candidate’s rank and commitment to teaching excellence. Faculty members are expected to develop an internationally recognized and externally funded research program, adopt innovative educational practices in both graduate and undergraduate instruction, advise students, and undertake service activities. The successful candidate will be expected to teach undergraduate and graduate courses that support the Sustainable Water Initiative. Priority will be given to candidates whose research interests address interdisciplinary challenges in the field.

Appointment will be at the assistant, associate or full professor rank commensurate with the candidate’s experience and accomplishments, beginning August 2014. Although the appointment may be in any of Fulton Engineering’s five schools, the successful candidate is most likely to be placed in the Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering program within the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

Review of applications will begin November 1, 2013. If not filled, reviews will occur on the 1st and 15th of the month thereafter, until the search is closed. To apply, submit as a single PDF file the following: a current CV, statements describing research and teaching interests and contact information for three references to

For more information or questions about this position, please write to

Arizona State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. See ASU’s complete non-discrimination statement.

ASU offers applicants an opportunity to voluntarily self-disclose information for the University’s affirmative action plan; applicants may complete an EEO survey for the position they are applying for online.

Information you’ll need to complete the survey:

Job Number: 10527

Job Title: Hydrology

Department Name: Engineering

New DCDC Publication

September 24, 2013

Assessment of De Facto Wastewater Reuse across the U.S.: Trends between 1980 and 2008


August 19, 2013 in Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es402792s


Jacelyn Rice, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and DCDC Graduate Research Assistant, ASU

Amber Wutich, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, ASU

Paul Westerhoff, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, ASU


DeFactoReuse_RiceWutichWesterhoffDe facto wastewater reuse is the incidental presence of treated wastewater in a water supply source. In 1980 the EPA identified drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) impacted by upstream wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharges and found the top 25 most impacted DWTPs contained between 2% and 16% wastewater discharges from upstream locations (i.e., de facto reuse) under average streamflow conditions. This study is the first to provide an update to the 1980 EPA analysis. An ArcGIS model of DWTPs and WWTPs across the U.S. was created to quantify de facto reuse for the top 25 cities in the 1980 EPA study. From 1980 to 2008, de facto reuse increased for 17 of the 25 DWTPs, as municipal flows upstream of the sites increased by 68%. Under low streamflow conditions, de facto reuse in DWTP supplies ranged from 7% to 100%, illustrating the importance of wastewater in sustainable water supplies. Case studies were performed on four cities to analyze the reasons for changes in de facto reuse over time. Three of the four sites have greater than 20% treated wastewater effluent within their drinking water source for streamflow less than the 25th percentile historic flow.

Read the entire article at Environmental Science and Technology.

Students aid efforts to solve border region's water challenges

September 16, 2013

ssebe_vivoni_umb-west_9099_wBy Rosie Gochnour and Joe Kullman via ASU News.

The border region of southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico faces the sustainability challenges of a semi-arid climate that experiences long periods of water scarcity. Economic, social and political cooperation will be required for the neighboring states to ensure the viability of their water resources in the future, says Arizona State University engineer Enrique Vivoni.

To help foster such collaboration, Vivoni established the U.S. Mexico Border Water and Environmental Sustainability Training program (UMB-WEST) in 2012. It is supported through 2014 by funding from the National Science Foundation’s International Research Experiences for Students program.

Vivoni is an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Vivoni also is a researcher with Decision Center for a Desert City.

This summer, the program brought together 11 ASU students and 13 students from three Mexican universities (the Universidad de Sonora, the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora and the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez), along with 14 faculty members from ASU and other universities to gain a deeper understanding of the water scarcity problem in the Arizona-Sonora border region.

The group included professors and students in the fields of civil and environmental engineering, geology, ecology, agriculture, environmental science and global health.

Lessons in water conflicts

ssebe_vivoni_umb-west_1730_wTheir endeavor started with a week at ASU, where students spent time "organizing travel logistics, getting to know each other, preparing equipment and familiarizing themselves with the state of Sonora and the current water infrastructure," explains Nolie Pierini, an ASU engineering doctoral student.

In the second week, students traveled to Mexico to learn about a major ongoing water dispute in Hermosillo, the largest city in Sonora and the state’s capitol, which has experienced significant population growth in the past decade. To meet the city’s increasing water demand, officials constructed a 162-kilometer-long aqueduct to transfer water from the Yaqui River Basin, a major supplier of water, to agricultural users in Ciudad Obregon.

"It's a commonly seen water conflict between industrial water users and agricultural water users," says Matthew Thompson, who is pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering at ASU. "The problem is amplified in the case of Sonora because they are in an area with significant drought and not enough water to meet everyone’s needs."

Hydrology field studies

Students visited both Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregon, and heard discussions and presentations from those on both sides of the water debate. They took field trips to an aqueduct, a dam and reservoir, a hydroelectric power plant and a water treatment plant – all parts of water infrastructure in the state of Sonora.

After a week of tours and presentations from water policymakers and stakeholders, the students traveled to the nearby rural city of Rayón for a week of hydrology field research.

One research project, led by David Gochis, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., involved attaching radiosonde sensors to large helium weather balloons to track various atmospheric conditions at altitudes as high as 20 kilometers (65,600 feet) at various times of the day. The radiosonde measures temperature, humidity and pressure in the atmosphere, data that is sent directly to a laptop computer and then used to create an atmospheric model that tracks monsoon-season weather dynamics and patterns.

Another project, led by Agustin Robles-Morua, a professor at the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora and a former postdoctoral researcher at ASU, surveyed people living in Rio San Miguel about water use practices, water quality and the impacts of new infrastructure.

Seth Morales, an ASU senior civil engineering major who is fluent in Spanish, was able to lead his group as they learned about different perspectives of water management and the water-use practices of specific users in the Rio San Miguel area near the town of Rayón.

ASU student Thompson, who worked with a team to install a weir (a barrier placed in a channel to enable measurement of water discharge) in a small stream, says he liked the hands-on aspect of the project. "It was gratifying to go to a remote, cool area and to use our hands to get a job done," he says.

Seeing impact of research

ssebe_vivoni_umb-west_2150_a_wAra Ko, an ASU engineering doctoral student supervised by Vivoni, worked with water plant pressure chambers under the direction of Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora faculty member Enrico Yepez. Ko says she liked learning about semi-arid plant dynamics and exploring a climate and an ecosystem that is extremely different from her hometown in Korea.

Many of the students say learning about the region’s water issues during their first week in Mexico made the research experience more rewarding.

"Research like we did in Rayón can help us learn how to use water more efficiently and can ease future problems in water policy," Pierini says.

"It was surprising to see how the research, or lack of research, can really have an impact on a whole community," Morales says.

Along with gaining a renewed appreciation for thorough research, the ASU students say they enjoyed learning about a different culture.

"It was amazing to see people living in the same hot summer climate as in Arizona, but without abundant water resources," Morales says. "Some homes only have access to water every three days for a two-hour window."

Cultural connection

Along with making him more appreciative of the quality of water infrastructure in the United States, Morales says the program was a "turning point" for him. The experience led him to decide that hydrosystems engineering is the career path he wants to pursue.

Thompson, a self-proclaimed lover of the hot Sonoran desert climate, says he is glad he had the opportunity to get to know some of his "neighbors to the south." He enjoyed learning about the government, culture, universities and people in Mexico, and says he was surprised that he formed a bond with people in Mexico, despite the language barrier.

"It definitely forces you out of your comfort zone, which is something that is essential for anyone who wants to learn how to coexist with people from other cultures," Thompson says.

Adds Morales, "Interaction with another culture opens your mind and impacts the way you view science in general."

Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study: Next Steps

September 13, 2013

Updated September 2013. Source: Bureau of Reclamation.

Moving Forward to Address Challenges Identified in the Study

736705main_iss_colorado_full_full_296In 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the seven Colorado River Basin States, published the most comprehensive study of future supplies and demands on the Colorado River ever undertaken. The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study confirmed what most experts knew: there are likely to be significant shortfalls between projected water supplies and demands in the Colorado River Basin in coming decades.

On May 28, 2013, Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor convened key stakeholders representing the Basin States, Native American Tribes, and the conservation community to discuss the future of the Colorado River Basin. The Moving Forward event in San Diego, California, identified next steps to address actions identified in the Study.

Those who rely on the Colorado River and its tributaries are committed to approaching these future challenges with the same steadfastness that they have approached and overcome past challenges. Following the call to action of the Study and as a first step in that commitment, all that rely on the Colorado are taking initial steps — working together — to identify positive solutions that can be implemented to meet the challenges ahead.

Next Steps - Phase 1

Phase 1 of the Next Steps activities includes the formation of a Coordination Team and three Workgroups with members who represent federal, state, tribal, agricultural, municipal, hydropower, environmental and recreational interests. The Coordination Team directs and reviews the efforts of the three workgroups, which are listed below. Each workgroup consists of members with subject-matter expertise from various entities in an effort to bring important and varying perspectives to build on collaborative findings to pursue the next steps identified in the Study.

New DCDC Publication

September 9, 2013

Quasi Experiments, Hedonic Models, and Estimating Trade-offs for Local Amenities


H. Allen Klaiber and V. Kerry Smith.


Land Economics, Volume 89, Number 3, August 2013


This paper evaluates whether the property value capitalization effects measured with quasi-experimental methods offer reliable estimates of willingness to pay for changes in amenities. We propose the use of a market simulation as a robustness check. Two applications establish the method’s relevance. The first examines the conversion of land cover from desert to wet landscape. The second examines cleanup of hazardous waste sites. We find that even when quasi-experimental methods have access to ideal instruments, their performance in measuring general equilibrium willingness to pay cannot be assumed ideal. It needs to be evaluated considering the specific features of each application.


KlaiberSmith_Figure2_296There is a fundamental distinction between estimating the effect of a policy that influences the value of a parcel on that land’s price and estimating what an individual would be willing to pay to obtain the policy. This issue is important to nearly all of the reduced form quasi-experimental (QE) and hedonic property value analyses conducted over the past decade. This distinction arises because the source of identifying information used to avoid biases in hedonic estimates that can arise from omitted variables and sorting behavior is not neutral to the economic interpretation of what is measured.1 Two approaches have been used to evaluate the empirical significance of this logical distinction in recovering estimates of economic trade-offs associated with a change in a nonmarket service. The first uses analytical models to describe the properties of these trade-off estimates, using the evaluation logic often associated with quasi experiments.2 The second approach uses simulation methods to evaluate the quantitative importance of distinguishing specific types of changes in site-specific amenities and [End Page 413] compares the evaluation logic to conventional cross-sectional hedonic methods.

The theoretical analysis by Kuminoff and Pope (2012) is an example of the first strategy. They adapt the Tinbergen-and-Jan-1959Tinbergen (1959)-Epple (1987) description of the features of a hedonic price function to describe a hedonic equilibrium. With this model they demonstrate that for an infinitesimal, exogenous change in a spatial attribute, conveyed with a house, the prechange and postchange marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) measures will be equal and correspond to the incremental price capitalization. However, in other situations the price differential associated with capitalization may not correspond to either the prechange or the postchange MWTP. In evaluating policies that are inherently nonmarginal, the close relationship between capitalization and willingness to pay (WTP) may not hold. In the current paper, we use simulation methods originating in the logic developed by Cropper, Deck, and McConnell (1988) and Kuminoff, Parameter, and Pope (2010) to provide a strategy for developing an understanding of this relationship as it arises in each specific type of application. An economic model, calibrated to a specific market, is used to simulate different hedonic equilibria and then to evaluate the performance of conventional cross-sectional hedonic models and methods based on the logic of program evaluation for estimating specific trade-offs people would make in response to changes in spatially varying amenities.

Our analysis complements the existing hedonic simulation papers and extends them to demonstrate how a market simulation can serve as a robustness check on the maintained assumptions of the evaluation logic when it is used to develop measures in property value applications of the trade-offs a person would make to secure more of a desirable amenity. For small changes, analysts have interpreted these measures as point estimates of the MWTP. For large, discrete changes associated with some applications of the evaluation framework, the appropriate interpretation of these measures is a topic of debate. Our analysis provides additional guidance on the interpretation of these measures. We focus on situations where the measure of interest is the general equilibrium willingness to pay (GE WTP) for changes in amenities, which is often the goal of policy analysis. We present two examples to illustrate the importance of a simulation check. Our findings in these examples imply that quasi experiments that are routinely a part of the evaluation logic can have large errors when their estimates of price capitalization are treated as estimates of WTP. We also find that the use of instruments with cross-sectional hedonic modeling can improve the quality of the estimates for the WTP for discrete changes in amenities. This is true even when the changes are large enough to induce re-sorting and result in a new hedonic price function. Finally, we find that the context for each application matters, so that general conclusions about robust strategies for estimating GE WTP do not follow; and therefore, it would be prudent to consider the use of similar simulations as a complement to empirical research on a case-by-case basis.

Continue reading the article at Land Economics. Subscription may be required.

Advancing Climate Adaptation in Flagstaff

August 20, 2013

Advancing Climate Adaptation in Flagstaff: Expert Discussion Session

On August 20, 2013 at the Global Institute of Sustainability, in preparation for workshops with Flagstaff's Public Works and Police Departments, a team of researchers is convening a small workshop with experts on climate and health, transportation materials, fire, storm water management, and emergency management. This discussion session will lead to a deeper understanding of the critical issues faced by the two departments. The Flagstaff City Council recently adopted strategies based upon the City’s 2012 City of Flagstaff Resiliency and Preparedness Study. Flagstaff’s management team hopes to implement these strategies through its performance measure and budgeting processes. The University of Arizona’s Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) program and Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) and Center for Integrated Solutions to Climate Challenges is assisting the City in this process. The team will work with Flagstaff’s management team to convene workshops targeted at the police and public works departments. The goals for the workshops will be to identify adaptation strategies that can be implemented now and planned for in the medium- and long-terms as climate and social conditions evolve. Once these strategies have been identified, we will develop performance measures and progress indicators for each strategy.

Expert Discussion Session Objectives

  1. Document expert opinions on how human vulnerability as they relate to health, storm water drainage, street pavement, forest fire, population, and emergency managers will be impacted by climate changes (impacts germane to the City of Flagstaff public works and police departments).
  2. Develop an understanding of the ideal strategies available to adapt to the aforementioned climate change impacts, the information necessary to implement those strategies, and metrics to measure their success (ostensibly improving resilience).
  3. Identify, in general, the information and tasks Flagstaff will likely need to plan and implement these strategies. This information will be incorporated into subsequent workshops with the City of Flagstaff.


  • 10:00 – 10:20 Introductions and Overview of Project (Zack Guido)
  • 10:20 – 10:35 Overview of Flagstaff Resiliency Study (Nicole Woodman)
  • 10:35 – 10:50 Why we are here (Ray Quay)
  • 10:50 – 11:50 Q1: In your expertise area, in what ways will human vulnerability be impacted by climate changes? What impacts could potentially be the most severe? (All)
  • 11:50 – 12:00 Break
  • 12:00 – 12:30 Working Lunch: Q1a: What are the overlapping issues of these topics? (All)
  • 12:30 – 1:30 Q2: If you were charged with developing strategies to deal with these risks in Flagstaff, what strategies would you focus on? (All)
  • 1:30 – 1:50 Break
  • 1:50 – 2:50 Q3: What information and or tasks would you need to plan and implement these strategies? (All)
  • 2:50 – 3:30 Next steps (Ray Quay)
  • 3:30 – 4:00 Q4: In your area of expertise, what practical metrics would you use to estimate or rate resiliency to climate change? (All)


  • Mark Brehl, City of Flagstaff
  • Mariano Gonzales, AZ Dept. of Emergency Management
  • Jon Fuller, JE Fuller/Hydrology & Geomorphology Inc.
  • Abe Springer, NAU, School of Earth Science & Environmental Sustainability
  • Shane Underwood, ASU, Department of Civil, Environmental, & Sustainable Engineering
  • Vjollca Berisha, Epidemiology
 Maricopa County Department of Public Health
  • Kimberly Sharp, Comprehensive Planning Manager, City of Flagstaff
  • Tamara Lawless (convener), City of Flagstaff
  • Zack Guido (convener), University of Arizona
  • Michele Roy (convener), Arizona State University
  • Ray Quay (convener), Arizona State University
  • Nicole Woodman (convener), Sustainability Manager, City of Flagstaff

September 4 Water/Climate Briefing

August 19, 2013

Challenges of Communicating Sustainability in Complex Systems for Public Policy

In our first Water/Climate Briefing for the 2013-2014 academic year, DCDC set the stage for a wide-ranging discussion of critical issues in the realms of science and policy for this year’s theme: Communicating Sustainability in Complex Systems for Public Policy.

Our panelists explored:

  • Understanding sustainability and complex systems
  • Communicating sustainability and climate change for public policy
  • Design of governance arrangements to transcend political borders
  • Design and administration of complex organizations
  • The role of global governance organizations in sustainability
  • Incorporating complexity into water resources decision making
  • Innovative tools for communicating complexity for public policy

We aim to provide opportunities for researchers, policy makers, and the interested public to engage in informed dialogue about the challenges and opportunities for decision making about sustainability in complex systems.

Join the conversation!


Jonathan Koppell WCB_Sep4_2013

Dean, College of Public Programs

Lattie and Elva Coor Presidential Chair, School of Public Affairs

Arizona State University

Michael Schoon

Assistant Professor, Environmental Policy

School of Sustainability

Arizona State University

Doug Toy

Water Regulatory Affairs Manager

City of Chandler

Dave White


Co-Director, Decision Center for a Desert City

Arizona State University


Wednesday, September 4, 2013, 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Thank you for your interest! We are at seating capacity. RSVPs will now be wait listed. Video of the discussion will be posted on September 9 at /outreach/waterclimate-briefings/


Decision Center for a Desert City, 21 East 6th Street, Suite 126B, Tempe [Map]

U. S. Drought Monitor

August 12, 2013

Concerns for water in the West are reflected in recent articles in the news such as Las Vegas water chief seeks disaster aid for Colorado River drought via Las Vegas Review-Journal; Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn via The New York Times; New Mexico is the driest of the dry via the Los Angeles Times.

US_DroughtMonitorTracking drought blends science and art. No single definition of drought works for all circumstances, so people rely on drought indices to detect and measure droughts. But no single index works under all circumstances, either. That's why we need the Drought Monitor, a synthesis of multiple indices and impacts, that represents a consensus of federal and academic scientists. The product will be refined over time as find ways to make it better reflect the needs of decision-makers and others who use the information.

The data cutoff for Drought Monitor maps is Tuesday at 7 a.m. Eastern Time. The maps, which are based on analysis of the data, are released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Check out the U.S. Drought Monitor and the Arizona Drought Monitor.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

Sustainability: Water

July 19, 2013

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn (NBC News' educational arm) have teamed up to produce a new informative video series that examines the long-term health of one of America's most important resources: water.

As climate rapidly changes and population grows, providing a sufficient supply and quality of water will be a critical challenge to people everywhere. These videos aim to help advance public understanding of the effects human activity and climate variability have on water and its distribution system.

"Sustainability: Water," an original seven-part collection, consists of detailed stories explaining significant challenges to managing the water supply in selected regions and cities across the United States.

The series highlights research funded by NSF and looks at the lives of scientists who are hard at work on projects designed to help pave the way to a more sustainable future. Each video features an NSF-supported scientist from a diversity of fields, geographic locations and institutions explaining a specific challenge and how these challenges are affecting the water supply. Each episode is available cost-free to teachers, students and the public at NSF and websites.

"Most Americans take water for granted," said Roger Wakimoto, assistant director for NSF's Directorate for Geosciences. "We have occasional water restrictions, but for most of us, when we turn on the tap, water is there. This series with NBC Learn aims to help people become more conscious of the threats to our water supply and understand the steps that need to be taken to maintain it."

"Our new series with NSF is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges to our environment," said Soraya Gage, general manager of NBC Learn. "By exploring the challenge of sustainable water, we hope to raise awareness and spur dialogue about managing the water system and conserving Earth's most precious resource."

Sustainability: Water - The Water Cycle

This video uses animation, graphics, and video clips to illustrate and explain each of the "flow" and "storage" processes in the Hydrologic Cycle, more commonly known as the Water Cycle: precipitation, interception, runoff, infiltration, percolation, groundwater discharge, evaporation, transpiration, evapotranspiration, and condensation.

Sustainability: Water - Baltimore's Urban Streams

Baltimore, Maryland is a major city situated on the Chesapeake Bay- a sprawling 64,000 square mile watershed. Currently, the Chesapeake is facing an environmental crisis due to pollutants. Scientist Claire Welty of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County is monitoring the travel times of pollutants in the urban streams in and around Baltimore. Through her research, she hopes to gain an understanding of the urban water cycle, and how municipalities can better prevent pollutants from contaminating the greater watershed.

Sustainability: Water - Dead Trees & Dirty Water In The Rockies

The Rocky Mountains supply water to more than 60 million homes in the West, but this crucial water shed is in peril due to a tiny insect called the mountain pine beetle. Scientists Reed Maxwell of Colorado School of Mines and John Stednick of Colorado State University have teamed up to study the impact of the mountain pine beetle on water quantity and quality in the area.

Sustainability: Water - Sierra Nevada Snow Pack & Snow Melt

Snow melt from the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range provides drinking water to about 30% of California’s residents, irrigates key crops in the San Joaquin valley, and runs hydroelectric power plants that supply at least 15% of the state’s electricity. Scientists Martha Conklin and Tom Harmon of the University of California, Merced are conducting research at the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory, using wireless sensor technology to more accurately measure snow pack and snow melt so that state water managers can make better decisions on how to allocate this precious resource.

Sustainability: Water - Nutrient Loading In Lake Erie

Part of the earth's largest surface freshwater system, Lake Erie is a vital source of drinking water for 11 million people. Researchers Anna Michalak, Tom Bridgeman, and Pete Richards are studying how farming practices and severe weather can increase the amount of fertilizer-derived nutrients in the water, which diminishes water quality and threatens the lake's ecosystem and the public's health.

Sustainability: Water - The Ogallala Aquifer

Farmers in Kansas and other states that sit atop the Ogallala aquifer – the largest freshwater aquifer in North America – are pumping out water for crop irrigation far faster than natural seepage of rainwater can replenish it. Scientist David Hyndman from Michigan State University is helping develop a plan to better manage this vital resource for sustainable farming.

Sustainability: Water - Los Angeles & Water Imports

The nearly 10 million people in the city and county of Los Angeles, California require a lot of water – most of which is imported snow melt from the Eastern Sierra Nevadas and Rocky Mountains, hundreds of miles away. UCLA researchers Stephanie Pincetl and Mark Gold are studying how Los Angeles can reduce its water imports and better capture, store and reuse water for a more sustainable water supply.

All video provided by the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn.

2013 Advanced Water Educator Workshop

July 11, 2013

AdvWaterEducator2013_296In conjunction with Arizona Project WET, the Water Sustainability Program, and UA’s Water Resources Research Center, DCDC hosted 35 teachers at the eighth annual workshop. The theme of this year’s workshop was, "Using Models to Simplify the Complex Interactions of Water in the Valley."

Educators joined us to enhance their knowledge about how scientists and engineers develop and use models to solve problems and ask questions about water in the city. After completing this workshop educators understood how:

  • models are used to explain phenomena, analyze systems, and solve problems
  • decision-makers deal with uncertainty in models
  • modeling is an iterative process
  • to use modeling in your classroom

Workshop materials are available here.

Having An Impact

July 9, 2013

Science and Public Policy, published by Oxford Journals, is a leading international journal on public policies for science, technology and innovation. It covers all types of science and technology in both developed and developing countries.

DCDC publications having an impact include the following articles published in Science and Public Policy in 2010 and 2011 that were most cited during 2012.

Dave D. White, Amber Wutich, Kelli L. Larson, Patricia Gober, Timothy Lant and Clea Senneville.2010. Credibility, salience, and legitimacy of boundary objects: water managers' assessment of a simulation model in an immersive decision theater. Science and Public Policy 37(3):219-232.


The connection between scientific knowledge and environmental policy is enhanced through boundary organizations and objects that are perceived to be credible, salient, and legitimate. In this study, water resource decision makers evaluated the knowledge embedded in WaterSim, an interactive simulation model of water supply and demand presented in an immersive decision theater. Content analysis of individual responses demonstrated that stakeholders were fairly critical of the model’s validity, relevance, and bias. Differing perspectives reveal tradeoffs in achieving credible, salient, and legitimate boundary objects, along with the need for iterative processes that engage them in the co-production of knowledge and action.

Sonia Talwar, Arnim Wiek and John Robinson. 2011. User engagement in sustainability research. Science and Policy (38)5:379-390.


User engagement, stakeholder involvement, and public consultation in sustainability research have received increased attention over the last decade. Key driving factors behind this are that social outcomes, policy relevance, and user engagement have all become requirements for securing research funding. Many articles have provided compelling arguments for the need to reconsider why, when and how users are engaged within the research process. We propose a typology of user engagement strategies in research, focusing on the actual research process and emphasizing types of engagement in research. We illustrate these types with a comparative analysis of empirical examples from three interactive sustainability research projects, based in Canada and Switzerland. The article discusses the challenges that require a reconfiguration of institutional and organizational structures to seize the full potential of interactive sustainability research.

China's Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities

June 24, 2013

By Ian Johnson via The New York Times

BEIJING — China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years — a transformative event that could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come.

The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. So large is the scale that the number of brand-new Chinese city dwellers will approach the total urban population of the United States — in a country already bursting with megacities.

This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.

The shift is occurring so quickly, and the potential costs are so high, that some fear rural China is once again the site of radical social engineering. Over the past decades, the Communist Party has flip-flopped on peasants’ rights to use land: giving small plots to farm during 1950s land reform, collectivizing a few years later, restoring rights at the start of the reform era and now trying to obliterate small landholders.

Across China, bulldozers are leveling villages that date to long-ago dynasties. Towers now sprout skyward from dusty plains and verdant hillsides. New urban schools and hospitals offer modern services, but often at the expense of the torn-down temples and open-air theaters of the countryside.

"It’s a new world for us in the city," said Tian Wei, 43, a former wheat farmer in the northern province of Hebei, who now works as a night watchman at a factory. "All my life I’ve worked with my hands in the fields; do I have the educational level to keep up with the city people?"

China has long been home to both some of the world’s tiniest villages and its most congested, polluted examples of urban sprawl. The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.

The building frenzy is on display in places like Liaocheng, which grew up as an entrepôt for local wheat farmers in the North China Plain. It is now ringed by scores of 20-story towers housing now-landless farmers who have been thrust into city life. Many are giddy at their new lives — they received the apartments free, plus tens of thousands of dollars for their land — but others are uncertain about what they will do when the money runs out.

Aggressive state spending is planned on new roads, hospitals, schools, community centers — which could cost upward of $600 billion a year, according to economists’ estimates. In addition, vast sums will be needed to pay for the education, health care and pensions of the ex-farmers.

While the economic fortunes of many have improved in the mass move to cities, unemployment and other social woes have also followed the enormous dislocation. Some young people feel lucky to have jobs that pay survival wages of about $150 a month; others wile away their days in pool halls and video-game arcades.

Top-down efforts to quickly transform entire societies have often come to grief, and urbanization has already proven one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic transition. Land disputes account for thousands of protests each year, including dozens of cases in recent years in which people have set themselves aflame rather than relocate.

Continue reading at The New York Times.

Framing Water Sustainability in an Environmental Decision Support System

June 17, 2013


Dave D. White

Co-director, Decision Center for a Desert City

Associate Professor, School of Community Resources and Development

Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability

Arizona State University


Society and Natural Resources published online on June 14, 2013.


This case study applies the theoretical concepts of frame and framing processes to identify and describe the diagnostic and prognostic frames for water sustainability expressed through an environmental decision support system. The research examines the development of WaterSim, a computer simulation model of water supply and demand in central Arizona. Qualitative data were generated through semistructured individual and group interviews, participant observations, and document analysis. The analysis identified a diagnostic frame defining the water sustainability problem as uncertain and long-term water supply shortage caused by prolonged drought, climate change impacts, and population growth. The prognostic frame for water sustainability defined the solutions to be urban residential water demand management, retirement of agricultural lands, and conversion of agricultural water to municipal uses to achieve safe yield of groundwater. The results of the study are discussed in terms of implications for decision support systems (DSS) design.

ASU and DCDC Sustainability Education Exchange with Tec de Monterrey

June 17, 2013

visita_ASU_001_296On June 10, 2013, Dave White, DCDC co-director and Senior Sustainability Scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability and an ASU contingent, had the unique opportunity to travel to Tec de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico to participate in an exchange program focused on sustainability education.

Dave presented the sustainability research, education, and community and institutional outreach efforts conducted by DCDC with an emphasis on two key aspects.

First, the ongoing research and stakeholder outreach project which involves faculty researchers from both ASU and Tec. This project, informally called the Water Innovation Consortium, involves stakeholder engagement, social science, hydrology, and integrated decision support and was funded by the two universities along with Inter-American Development Bank and FEMSA Foundation.

Second, Dave also met with colleagues from Tec taking the opportunity to learn about their approach to sustainability education with the aim of improving our related efforts at ASU.

Dave met with specific faculty partners including Dr. Jurgen Malknecht, Director, Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean(CAALCA), Tec de Monterrey.

Additional information in Spanish from the Agencia Pernambucana de Aquas y Clima (APAC).

An Arid Arizona City Manages Its Thirst

June 17, 2013

By Fernanda Santos of The New York Times

June 16, 2013

CAP_RiparianPreservePHOENIX — The hiss of sprinklers serenades improbably green neighborhoods early in the morning and late at night, the moisture guarding against the oppressive heat. This is the time of year when temperatures soar, water consumption spikes and water bills skyrocket in this city, particularly for those whose idea of desert living includes cultivating a healthy expanse of grass.

Half of the water consumed in homes here is used to irrigate lawns, but there is a certain curiosity about the way water is used in Phoenix, which gets barely eight inches of rain a year but is not necessarily parched.

The per capita consumption here, 108 gallons a day, is less than in Los Angeles, where residents average 123 gallons a day. And though humid Southeastern cities like Atlanta have grappled with recurrent water shortages, there is no limit here to how many times someone can wash a car or water flowers in a yard.

"We’re often maligned as being an unsustainable place simply for existing in an arid climate," said Colin Tetreault, senior policy adviser for sustainability for Mayor Greg Stanton. "But that’s just myopic."

Phoenix gathers its water from several places. It relies on melting snow in the north to feed the rivers that supply its water system: the Salt and the Verde, which begin and end in Arizona, and the overstretched Colorado, which slices the Southwest. It pumps from aquifers, strained by development over time, and then works to replenish them whenever water is in surplus, which happens occasionally.

To irrigate its many golf courses, it reuses most of the water drained from bathroom faucets and washing machines. It uses treated wastewater to cool a nuclear power generating station and to feed a man-made wetland complex known as Tres Rios, home to more than 150 species of birds.

A system of canals crisscrosses the city and stretches beyond its boundaries, a legacy of the prehistoric Hohokam Indians that allowed fertile farms to flourish in the desert. To this day, half of all the water used in the Sun Corridor, the area from Phoenix to Tucson, goes to agriculture, according to a 2011 report by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. Steadily, though, much of the farmland has given way to development.

Figuring out how water will be used here is like solving a puzzle speckled with blank pieces, in which the unknowns are the housing market and climate change.

Water managers weigh wet and dry cycles over the past 100 years against climate change models designed in the previous year and demographic projections. They also analyze the way parcels of land are zoned to make assumptions about how water will be used.

Over all, demand for water has declined steadily in this and in many other metropolitan areas, because of water-efficient technologies like low-flow toilets, and stricter building codes. Still, the draining of rivers and other water sources — from overdevelopment, poor management, climate change or a little bit of all of these — has forced communities to rethink their strategies. Some have used money as the main incentive to get people to give up their addiction to turf.

Tucson, where grass is hard to find and true desert living is a source of pride among residents, consumes less water than Phoenix, but it has a bigger problem. The city relies heavily on a dwindling supply of groundwater. To safeguard its supply, the city has an aggressive conservation campaign that includes rebates for residents who harvest rainwater or use water reclaimed from bathroom faucets for landscaping.

The city of Mesa pays residents $500 for every 500 square feet of grass they remove from their yards. Scottsdale, which has the highest per-person water consumption among Arizona’s cities, offers at least $125 for removing the same amount. Las Vegas pays $1.50 a square foot of grass replaced by landscaping appropriate for dry regions.

Phoenix, where water consumption is down from 250 daily gallons a person in 1990, does not have rebate programs. "It costs all the taxpayers money if you do that kind of thing," said its deputy water services director, Brandy Kelso.

"I don’t want to mean that we don’t do conservation," Ms. Kelso added. "We just approach it differently."

A modest list of zoning and other rules — controlling responsibilities over leak repairs, limiting the amount of potable water used to irrigate 10 or more acres of grass, and imposing restrictions on the types of plants allowed in certain public rights of way, to name a few — have helped the city evenly reduce indoor water use over time, she said.

Reductions in outdoor use have been much less homogeneous, though. Affluent neighborhoods like Arcadia, a former citrus grove on the eastern edge of the city, remain lush oases. But in Phoenix’s outer ring, where most new housing has sprouted, grass has largely given way to rocks and dirt.

Master-plan communities like Fireside at Norterra, in the city’s northern fringe, go as far as regulating the kinds of trees, shrubs and flowers that can be planted.

"You may want to plant begonias," Tamara Swanson, the development’s general manager, recalled having told prospective buyers, "but they wouldn’t do well here anyway."

But is green in the desert a bad thing? Not necessarily. Dave D. White, a director of the National Science Foundation’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which studies water management decisions in central Arizona, said grass "cools off the landscape" and trees provide shade.

The idea, Dr. White said, is striking the right balance between conservation and growth. In the verdant corners of Phoenix, he and other researchers are looking at whether a homeowner’s switch to desert landscaping might cause a ripple effect that would eventually change the neighborhood.

"There’s a need to use water to make our community livable, but in an intelligent way that thinks about long-term sustainability," he said. "Because there’s no new supply out there."

View the article at The New York Times.

States dependent on Colorado River consider conservation effort

May 30, 2013

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

May 28, 2013

736705main_iss_colorado_full_full_296SAN DIEGO — Officials in the seven states that depend on the drought-beset Colorado River expressed a cautious willingness Tuesday to join the federal government in a complex, possibly contentious effort to step up conservation.

At a meeting in San Diego, officials of the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation announced the establishment of three inter-state committees to devise plans for conservation, possibly including water reuse, desalination, water banking and the sale of water from farms to cities.

"While the solutions won't be easy for anyone involved, the consequences of failure are too dire to ignore," said Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The committees have been ordered to have their recommendations ready by year's end — virtually lightning speed for water-sharing issues that regularly take years, often decades, to resolve, if they can be resolved at all.

One committee will be composed of major municipal and industrial water users, one of agricultural interests, and one will have representatives from environmental groups. Also, the federal government is pledging to work on conservation projects with 10 American Indian tribes that have rights to the Colorado River and its tributaries.

On one point, there appears to be no disagreement: The hour is late and shortages loom as demand threatens to outstrip supply. Last year was the fifth driest on record; this year is headed to be the fourth driest.

By Oct. 1, the river's two reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, could be at less than half of their capacity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

"The time for action is now," said Jennifer Pitt, head of the Environmental Defense Fund's Colorado River Project. "Communities that depend on the Colorado River — for water supply or as the foundation of a $26-billion recreation economy — cannot afford to wait."

Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times.