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In collaboration with the Arizona Water Institute at the University of Arizona and ASU’s Decision Theater, DCDC hosted a series of workshops in 2009–2010 dealing with climatic uncertainty and climate modeling for scientists and water stakeholders, “Planning for Climate Change through an Integrative Approach to Water Planning, Climate Downscaling, and Robust Decision Making.” At the conclusion of this workshops series, and based on interest in maintaining dialogue, we agreed to continue to organize stakeholders and scientists under the umbrella of the Arizona Climate and Water Resource Alliance (ACWRA), supported jointly by DCDC at ASU and CLIMAS at UA.

The inaugural ACWRA workshop was held May 12, 2011. The goal was to bring together a wide group of water-resource managers from across the region to discuss implications of widespread groundwater pumping events and candidly explore the implications of such events and the future research and discussion needed to address these implications. Participants focused on questions such as: “How low would aquifer levels go if everyone was to pump groundwater to the maximum extent allowed during such a long-term drought event?” and “How long would they remain at these levels after such an event?”

Future programming will be organized around extreme storms and their impacts of reservoir storage and floodplain management. The next ACWRA workshop is being planned to explore this growing research area and to develop a strategy acceptable to scientists and stakeholders to produce science products that meet the needs of the science community, water providers, and floodplain managers.

The Urban Heat Island: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies for a Cooler Valley

On October 18, 2011, Arizona Indicators, a project of ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, presented, The Urban Heat Island: Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies for a Cooler Valley in conjunction with the Sustainable Cities Network Green Infrastructure Workgroup Meeting at the Decision Center for a Desert City.


  • Harvey Bryan, Professor, The Design School, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, ASU
  • Carol Johnson, Planning Manager, City of Phoenix Planning and Development Department
  • Chris Martin, Professor, Department of Applied Sciences and Mathematics, College of Technology and Innovation, ASU
  • Moderator: Dave White, Associate Director, Decision Center for a Desert City, ASU

This panel discussion expanded upon the Arizona Indicators Policy Points piece, The Urban Heat Island: Jeopardizing The Sustainability of Phoenix, written by DCDC Research Analyst and Data Manager, Sally Wittlinger. In a desert city such as Phoenix, summertime heat is a way of life, but how much does the built environment contribute to the intensity of the heat on a summer night? In urbanized Phoenix, nights don’t cool down as much as in the surrounding rural areas and on more and more summer nights, the official Phoenix temperature fails to drop below 90 degrees. Climate plays a huge role in the comfort and quality of life of residents, with numerous implications for tourism, energy demand, water use, and the vulnerability of low-income families.

Harvey Bryan is a specialist in building technology; he has served on the committee responsible for developing the National Energy Standard for Buildings and is currently serving on a committee that recently developed a National High-Performance Green Building Standard. Dr. Bryan is active in ASU’s National Center of Excellence (NCE) which is charged with studying the impact of engineered materials (particularly their thermal impact) on the urban environment. Dr. Bryan has been involved in several UHI related studies. His investigations explore how natural and engineered materials absorb, store and lose thermal energy, which are key factors in our understanding of UHI and how it can be mitigated in our urban environments.

Carol Johnson is the Planning Manager with the City of Phoenix Planning and Development Department where she manages long-range planning and special projects. In addition to her Phoenix experience, she has worked for cities in Connecticut and Washington State, and as a consultant in the private sector. Ms. Johnson has promoted the incorporation of sustainability principles and practices into recent projects including the Phoenix General Plan Update and Downtown Code (formerly called the Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project). In particular, the Downtown Code uses both regulations and incentives to mitigate and adapt to the Urban Heat Island by incorporating cool building materials and increasing shade to improve thermal comfort.

Chris A. Martin received his Ph.D. in Environmental Horticulture from the University of Florida; he came to Arizona State University in 1990, where he maintains an active and externally funded research program in urban plant ecology. He is a member of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Ecological Society of America, International Society of Arboriculture, the Metropolitan Tree Improvement Alliance, the International Association for Urban Climate, and the Arizona Community Tree Council. Dr. Martin is investigating the effects of urban vegetation design and urban vegetation management on urban microclimates.

Math and Climate Research Network Workshop

ASU Professors Alex Mahalov and Eric Kostelich brought their Math and Climate Research Network Workshop to DCDC on March 5-7, 2012. The Math and Climate Research Network links researchers across the US to develop the mathematics needed to better understand the Earth’s climate.

It is generally accepted in the scientific community that the world is undergoing a significant change in its climate. The issues and problems of the science that seeks to understand the earth’s climate, and how it is changing, have a significant mathematical dimension. The Mathematics and Climate Research Network (MCRN) is a virtual organization of leading researchers in mathematics and geosciences whose mission is to establish a new area of applied mathematics tailored to the needs of climate research.

The network consists of researchers at “nodes” across the US, together with several collaborating government and university labs and centers in the US and beyond. Network researchers have a collective expertise that cuts across the relevant areas of applied mathematics and climate science. They will collaboratively lead a group of postdoctoral research fellows, graduate and undergraduate students to create a cadre of strong mathematicians with the interdisciplinary expertise required to analyze problems that have their origin in climate issues.

MCRN is funded by an award from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences, and is administered through the Renaissance Computing Institute.

Understanding Residential Water Use: New Approaches to Analyzing, Projecting, and Managing Demand Conference

On May 11, 2012, ASU economist Kerry Smith, along with Arizona water managers, convened leading economic and social scientists from around the country along with municipal water providers from major western cities including Phoenix, Mesa, Tucson, and Seattle. Presentations focused on cutting-edge research on price and non-price incentives; the economic value of residential water; and understanding behavioral responses to water policy. Scientists and policy makers engaged in interactive dialogue to identify opportunities for innovative collaborative research.

  1. Introduction and Welcome – Kerry Smith
  2. Challenges Facing Water Providers and the Need for Improved Understanding of Residential Water Demand – Ray Quay
  3. Understanding Performance of Price and Non-Price Incentives and the Economic Value of Residential Water Goals: Present new research on: the effects of policies restricting timing of water use on amount of the water used, the responsiveness of price elasticity to temperature and outdoor landscape, and contribution of landscape attributes to housing values.
    • Michael K. Price, University of Tennessee – Presentation
    • Klaus Moeltner, Virginia Tech University – Presentation
    • H. Allen Klaiber, Ohio State University – Presentation
    • Session Chair: Kerry Smith, Arizona State University
  4. Water Provider Information Needs and Innovative Research Goals: Identify surprising trends in water use; link between long term changes in landscape and outdoor use, replacement of water using appliances and indoor use and role of price and non-price policies; revenue needs and rate design.
    • Bruce Flory, Seattle Public Utilities – Presentation
    • Douglas Frost, City of Phoenix – Presentation
    • Tom Arnold, City of Tucson – Presentation
    • Session Chair: Ray Quay, Arizona State University
  5. Understanding Behavioral Responses to Water Policy Goals: Lessons from psychology experiments and perceptions of water using versus water saving landscapes; insights from behavioral economics.
    • W. Michael Hanemann, Arizona State University – Presentation
    • Juan Jose Miranda, Georgia State University – Presentation
    • Susan Ledlow, Arizona State University – Presentation
    • Session Chair: Dave White, Arizona State University
  6. Roundtable—Opportunities for and Challenges to New Residential Water Demand Research
    • Ray Quay, Arizona State University
    • Kathryn Sorensen, City of Mesa
    • Peter Yolles, WaterSmart Software
    • Session Chair: Sheila Olmstead, Resources for the Future

Water Innovation Consortium (WIC)

The Water Innovation Consortium is a unique collaboration between ASU (DCDC and Decision Theater), Tecnológico de Monterrey (CALCA), and FEMSA Foundation to engage scientists and stakeholders in Monterrey, Mexico. The project develops a model for an Integrated Basin Observatory through surface and groundwater modeling, stakeholder engagement, and strategic decision support. Partners conducted a workshop on February 17, 2011 in Monterrey that brought together 25 scientists, stakeholders, and decision makers for presentations and discussions. A follow-up workshop is planned for later in 2011. In June 2011, Project PIs Dave White and Patricia Gober met with the representatives of FEMSA Foundation with a follow-up meeting in August 2011 with a FEMSA delegation including the FEMSA CEO to discuss extensions of the current project.