New DCDC Publication

DCDC Publication

Tradeoffs Between Water Conservation and Temperature Amelioration in Phoenix and Portland: Implications for Urban Sustainability


Patricia Gober [1, 2]
Ariane Middel [3]
Anthony Brazel [1]
Soe Myint [1]
Heejun Chang [4]
Jiunn-Der Duh [4]
Lily House-Peters [4]


This study addresses a classic sustainability challenge—the tradeoff between water conservation and temperature amelioration in rapidly growing cities, using Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon as case studies. An urban energy balance model— LUMPS (Local-Scale Urban Meteorological Parameterization Scheme)—is used to represent the tradeoff between outdoor water use and nighttime cooling during hot, dry summer months. Tradeoffs were characterized under three scenarios of land use change and three climate-change assumptions. Decreasing vegetation density reduced outdoor water use but sacrificed nighttime cooling. Increasing vegetated surfaces accelerated nighttime cooling, but increased outdoor water use by ~20%. Replacing impervious surfaces with buildings achieved similar improvements in nighttime cooling with minimal increases in outdoor water use; it was the most water-efficient cooling strategy. The fact that nighttime cooling rates and outdoor water use were more sensitive to land use scenarios than climate-change simulations suggested that cities can adapt to a warmer climate by manipulating land use.

Download publication. You may or may not have access through your institution.

[1] School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
[2] Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
[3] Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University
[4] Department of Geography, Portland State University

Watershed: Exploring a new water ethic for the new west

Can we meet the needs of a growing population in the face of rising temperatures and lower rainfall in an already arid land? Can we find harmony amongst the competing interests of cities, agriculture, industry, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities with rights to the water?

Produced and narrated by Robert Redford and directed by award-winning filmmaker, Mark Decena, Watershed tells the story of the threats to the once mighty Colorado River and offers solutions for the future of the American West. Please join us after the showing for a panel discussion.


Dave White, co-director, Decision Center for a Desert City, Global Institute of Sustainability
John Hathaway, Arizona Riparian Council & watercourse planning manager, Flood Control District of Maricopa County
Jim Holway, director, Western Lands and Communities, a Lincoln Institute of Land Policy – Sonoran Institute Joint Venture
Steve Pawlowski, program coordinator, Water Sentinels, Sierra Club
Kris Randall, Arizona Riparian Council & state coordinator, Partners for Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Moderated by:

Matt Chew, assistant research professor in the School of Life Sciences.

This one-night only showing is free to the public. Free parking is available at the Brickyard Parking Garage on 6th St & Mill Ave. Be sure to bring your parking ticket into the theater for validation.

To find more information on Watershed, visit

This event is co-sponsored by the Arizona Riparian Council.

Where and When:

Thursday, September 27, 2012
6:30 p.m. doors open
7:00 p.m. showing
Valley Art Theater
509 S. Mill Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85281
(5th St. and Mill Ave.)


October 10 Water/Climate Briefing

Dynamics of Water in Urban Ecosystems: Green Infrastructure

The term green infrastructure has been used to refer to everything from green roofs to more ecologically friendly stormwater management systems and large networks of natural areas. What these different usages have in common is a basic recognition that our built environment and our ecological environment are connected and interrelated.

Green infrastructure planning is an approach that can improve urban infrastructure to maintain healthy waters, provide multiple environmental benefits, and support sustainable communities.

Join us on October 10th to explore how green infrastructure is impacting urban ecosystems in our region.


Mounir El Asmar, Assistant Professor, ASU School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Engineering
Irene Ogata, Urban Landscape Manager, City of Tucson
Kelli Sertich, Floodplain Management and Services Division Manager, Maricopa County
Ken Vonderscher, Deputy Director, Parks and Recreation for the City of Phoenix


Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 12:00–1:30 p.m.

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP to:


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

WCB Oct 10 2012

Water Conflict in Arizona: Are We Heading for a Water Congress?

Water Conflict in Arizona: Are We Heading for a Water Congress? from CWAGAZ on Vimeo.

On September 8, 2012, DCDC Internship Fellows and ASU School of Sustainability students Emily Allen, Kena Fedorschak, and Colin Russell explored what motivates or inhibits stakeholders when deciding whether to participate in collaborative environments, and what implications exist for the potential of a water congress in Arizona.

The Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG), an organization which promotes a sustainable water future in the Upper Verde River Basin and the Prescott Active Management Area, requested that DCDC/SOS interns present at one of their meetings and share the findings of their survey research.

In Kena’s words, “Water policy and management is a complex and dynamic issue for all of Arizona’s stakeholders. Future water supply is uncertain due to limited water supplies, limited delivery systems, and the lack of an efficient collaborative entity to comprehensively coordinate planning efforts. The lack of effective and cohesive collaboration was recently demonstrated through the break-down and end of the 7-year ADD Water discussions. Increased collaboration is often believed to contribute to development of water policy in a beneficial manner; Colorado and Kansas have promoted state-wide collaboration through implementation of a water congress. In Arizona, the establishment of numerous county-wide, regional and local water groups (e.g. The East Valley Water Forum) may be a reaction by concerned or discontented stakeholders. This talk will explore what motivates and inhibits stakeholders from participating in collaborative environments and what implications exist for a potential of a water congress in Arizona.”

Water Security: Research Challenges and Opportunities

In a recent article published by Karen Bakker in Science entitled,”Water Security: Research Challenges and Opportunities”, she argues for enhanced integration between academic research and policy making for water sustainability.

Bakker goes on to make note of several promising efforts to improve the linkage between knowledge and action, “In addition, project-based funding should be complemented by the creation of long-term networks [e.g., Oxford University’s Water Security Network] and research units that bring together interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners on a longer-term basis (32), e.g., NSF’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which bridges science and policy to create analytical tools used in water decision-making.”

The article illustrates the increasing impact of our work at Decision Center for a Desert City. Read the entire article at Science.

Karen Bakker is Director of the Program on Water Governance in the Department of Geography and Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.


An estimated 80% of the world’s population faces a high-level water security or water-related biodiversity risk (1). The issue of water security—defined as an acceptable level of water-related risks to humans and ecosystems, coupled with the availability of water of sufficient quantity and quality to support livelihoods, national security, human health, and ecosystem services (2, 3)—is thus receiving considerable attention. To date, however, the majority of academic research on water security is relatively poorly integrated with the needs of policy-makers and practitioners; hence, substantial changes to funding, education, research frameworks, and academic incentive structures are required if researchers are to be enabled to make more substantive contributions to addressing the global water crisis.