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DCDC Research Highlights from Recent Poster Symposia

February 1, 2013

DCDC researchers shared their research at several conferences and meetings in the first half of the 2012-2013 academic year. From topics ranging from The Social Ecology of Residential Land Management to An Application Programmer’s Interface (API) to WaterSim: WaterSim 5.0, DCDC's interdis­ciplinary research projects form a broad effort to inform urban decision makers about the evolving challenges of coping with a changing climate.

Jose Rosales Chavez, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant
Our researchers participated in the following poster symposia:

  • 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting, Scottsdale, AZ, January 11, 2013
  • American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, December 3-7, 2012
  • PhD Design, Environment, and the Arts Student Research Poster Exhibit and Reception, Tempe, AZ, October 4, 2012
  • Long-Term Ecological Research All Scientist Meeting, Estes Park, Colorado, September 12, 2012

Larson, K.L., E. Cook, J. Brumand, S. Hall, and K. Feldbauer. 2013. The social ecology of residential land management: Complex effects, tradeoffs and legacies in the Sonoran Desert of Phoenix, AZ. Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ.

Larson, K.L. 2012. The social ecology of residential land management: Complex effects, tradeoffs and legacies in the Sonoran Desert of Phoenix, AZ. Presented September 12, 2012, at the Long-Term Ecological Research All Scientist Meeting, Estes Park, CO, September 10-13.

Ariane Middel, Ph.D., DCDC Post Doctoral Scholar
Middel, A., K. Häb, A.J. Brazel, C. Martin, and S. Guhathakurta. 2013. Impact of urban form and design on mid-afternoon microclimate in Phoenix neighborhoods . Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. [Poster]

Middel, A., K. Häb, J.P. Erickson, A.J. Brazel, C. Martin, and S. Guhathakurta. 2012. Impact of microclimate on residential energy consumption in different Phoenix Arizona neighborhood types. Poster presented on October 4, 2012 at the PhD Design, Environment, and the Arts Student Research Poster Exhibit and Reception, Tempe, AZ.

Moreno, H., E. Vivoni, and D. Gochis. 2012. Exploring the limits of flood forecasting in mountain basins by using QPE and QPF Products in a physically-based, distributed hydrologic model during summer convection. Poster presented December 6, 2012 at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, December 3-7, 2012, San Francisco, CA. [Poster]

Quay, R., D. Sampson, D. White, C. Kirkwood, and P. Gober. 2013. Using advanced scenario analysis as an anticipatory tool: Exploring the uncertainty of urban water demand and supply within Central Arizona. Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. [Poster]

Jacelyn Rice, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant
Rice, J., and P. Westerhoff. 2013. Indirect potable reuse in the Phoenix metropolitan area: How much wastewater is in Central Arizona-Phoenix source waters? Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. [Poster]

Rosales Chavez, J., A. Wutich, A. Brewis, A.M. York, and R. Stotts. 2013. Rules, norms, and injustice: A cross-cultural study of perceptions of justice in water institutions. Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. [Poster]

Sampson, D.A., and R. Quay. 2013. Potential Central Arizona Project water shortages as influenced by climate and Upper Basin delivery schedules. Poster presented at the 11 January 2013, 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium and All Scientist Meeting 2013, Skysong, Scottsdale, AZ. [Poster]

Sampson, D.A., and R. Quay. 2012. An Application Programmer’s Interface (API) to WaterSim: WaterSim 5.0. Poster presented December 5, 2012 at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, December 3-7, 2012, San Francisco, CA. [Poster]

Your Warming World from New Scientist Magazine

February 1, 2013

New Scientist Magazine was launched in 1956 "for all those men and women who are interested in scientific discovery, and in its industrial, commercial and social consequences".

In an interactive graphic display, Your Warming World, New Scientist Magazine presents results from a global analysis of surface temperatures from 1880 to the present called GISTEMP, produced by a team at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

The graphs and maps all show changes relative to average temperatures for the three decades from 1951 to 1980, the earliest period for which there was sufficiently good coverage for comparison. This gives a consistent view of climate change across the globe. To put these numbers in context, the NASA team estimates that the global average temperature for the 1951-1980 baseline period was about 14 °C.

The analysis uses land-based temperature measurements from some 6000 monitoring stations in the Global Historical Climatology Network, plus records from Antarctic stations recorded by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Temperatures at the ocean surface come from a measurements made by ships from 1880 to 1981, plus satellite measurements from 1982 onwards.

Surface temperature measurements are not evenly distributed across the globe. So the NASA team interpolates from the available data to calculate average temperatures for cells in a global grid, with each cell measuring 2 degrees latitude by 2 degrees longitude. The analysis extrapolates up to 1200 kilometres from any one station, which allows for more complete coverage in the Arctic – where monitoring stations are sparsely distributed, but where the warming trend is especially strong.

The NASA team also corrects the data to remove local heating caused by dense human settlements – a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Temperature stations in urban areas are identified by referring to satellite images of the light they give off at night, and their records are adjusted to reflect the average trend of nearby rural stations.

Check out the data in your area at Your Warming World.


  • Interactive built by Chris Amico and Peter Aldhous.
  • NASA GISTEMP analysis by James Hansen, Reto Ruedy, Makiko Sato and Ken Lo.
  • Thanks to Robert Schmunk for help in obtaining data.

Getting Outside the Water Box: The Need for New Approaches to Water Planning and Policy

January 18, 2013

DCDC founding director, Patricia Gober, writes in the January 15, 2013 editorial for the journal Water Resources Management, that North American water systems are inadequately prepared to deal with an uncertain future climate and other uncertainties relevant to long-term sustainability.

The water resources community has been slow to embrace new paradigms for long-term water planning and policy. Too much attention has been focused on reducing, clarifying, and representing climatic uncertainty and too little attention has been directed to building capacity to accommodate uncertainty and change.

Given the limited ability to forecast the future climate, emphasis must shift to the human actors and social dynamics of water systems, including planning processes, work practices, operational rules, public attitudes, and stakeholder engagement.

Continue reading the editorial at Water Resources Management.

Draft Climate Assessment Report Released for Public Review

January 15, 2013

A 60-person Federal Advisory Committee (The "National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee" or NCADAC) has overseen the development of this draft climate report.

The Executive Summary begins with climate change already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.

Many impacts associated with these changes are important to Americans’ health and livelihoods and the ecosystems that sustain us. These impacts are the subject of this report. The impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. While some changes will bring potential benefits, such as longer growing seasons, many will be disruptive to society because our institutions and infrastructure have been designed for the relatively stable climate of the past, not the changing one of the present and future. Similarly, the natural ecosystems that sustain us will be challenged by changing conditions. Using scientific information to prepare for these changes in advance provides economic opportunities, and proactively managing the risks will reduce costs over time.

Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming. U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5°F since 1895; more than 80% of this increase has occurred since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s hottest on record. Though most regions of the U.S. are experiencing warming, the changes in temperature are not uniform. In general, temperatures are rising more quickly at higher latitudes, but there is considerable observed variability across the regions of the U.S.

U.S. temperatures will continue to rise, with the next few decades projected to see another 2°F 26 to 4°F of warming in most areas. The amount of warming by the end of the century is projected to correspond closely to the cumulative global emissions of greenhouse gases up to that time: roughly 3°F to 5°F under a lower emissions scenario involving substantial reductions in emissions after 2050 (referred to as the "B1 scenario"), and 5°F to 10°F for a higher emissions scenario assuming continued increases in emissions (referred to as the "A2 scenario") (Ch. 2).

The chances of record-breaking high temperature extremes will continue to increase as the climate continues to change. There has been an increasing trend in persistently high nighttime temperatures, which have widespread impacts because people and livestock get no respite from the heat. In other places, prolonged periods of record high temperatures associated with droughts contribute to conditions that are driving larger and more frequent wildfires. There is strong 36 evidence to indicate that human influence on the climate has already roughly doubled the probability of extreme heat events like the record-breaking summer of 2011 in Texas and 38 Oklahoma (Ch. 2,3,6,9,20).

Continue reading the report at the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee website.

Provide comments to the report between January 14th and April 12th only. Please go to the Review and Comment System to provide comments on the draft. Visit the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee website.

Transitions in Urban Environmental Systems: Lessons from New York City and Hurricane Sandy

January 7, 2013

DCDC is proud to co-sponsor the 15th Annual CAP LTER Poster Symposium keynote speaker, William Solecki, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Cities, and Professor, Department of Geography at City University of New York, at this year's Poster Symposium and All Scientists Meeting.

On Friday, January 11, 2013, Dr. Solecki will be presenting "Transitions in Urban Environmental Systems: Lessons from New York City and Hurricane Sandy." In this talk, he will reflect on the past urban environmental system crises and transitions. The lens of critical transition theory and writings on urban system resilience can be used to sharpen our analytical capacity to study such issues.

The agenda includes invited presentations on representative current research in the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program. There will also be two interactive poster sessions featuring 60 posters from a variety of CAP LTER research and education projects, including exhibits from high school and middle school students participating in the Ecology Explorers program.

Special working sessions to discuss future research in the areas of water, climate, biodiversity, biogeochemistry, and CAP's foundational databases are planned for lunchtime. An RSVP is required to participate in these working sessions, at which lunch will be provided.

The Convergence Room at SkySong is in the northeast corner of the building. There is free parking north of the building, and SkySong is also accessible by Valley Metro (bus 72) from the Tempe Transit Center.

Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study

December 14, 2012

December 12, 2012 - via the Bureau of Reclamation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the release of a study – authorized by Congress and jointly funded and prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation and the seven Colorado River Basin states – that projects water supply and demand imbalances throughout the Colorado River Basin and adjacent areas over the next 50 years. The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, the first of its kind, also includes a wide array of adaptation and mitigation strategies proposed by stakeholders and the public to address the projected imbalances.

The average imbalance in future supply and demand is projected to be greater than 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060, according to the study. One acre-foot of water is approximately the amount of water used by a single household in a year. The study projects that the largest increase in demand will come from municipal and industrial users, owing to population growth. The Colorado River Basin currently provides water to some 40 million people, and the study estimates that this number could nearly double to approximately 76.5 million people by 2060, under a rapid growth scenario.

"There's no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years – rather, it's going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions," said Secretary Salazar. "Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. While not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions."

Authorized by the 2009 SECURE Water Act, the study analyzes future water supply and demand scenarios based on factors such as projected changes in climate and varying levels of growth in communities, agriculture and business in the seven Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

The study includes over 150 proposals from study participants, stakeholders and the public that represent a wide range of potential options to resolve supply and demand imbalances. Proposals include increasing water supply through reuse or desalinization methods, and reducing demand through increased conservation and efficiency efforts. The scope of the study does not include a decision as to how future imbalances should or will be addressed. Reclamation intends to work with stakeholders to explore in-basin strategies, rather than proposals - such as major trans-basin conveyance systems - that are not considered cost effective or practical.

"This study is one of a number of ongoing basin studies that Reclamation is undertaking through Interior's WaterSMART Program," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "These analyses pave the way for stakeholders in each basin to come together and determine their own water destiny. This study is a call to action, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative approach as we discuss next steps."

WaterSMART is Interior's sustainable water initiative and focuses on using the best available science to improve water conservation and help water-resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. The WaterSMART program includes Reclamation's Water and Energy Efficiency grants, Title XVI Reclamation and Recycling projects, and USGS's Water Availability and Use Initiative."This study brings important facts and new information to the table so that we can better focus on solutions that are cost effective, practical and viable" said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor. "We know that no single option will be enough to overcome the supply and demand gap, and this study provides a strong technical foundation to inform our discussions as we look to the future."

Spanning parts of the seven states, the Colorado River Basin is one of the most critical sources of water in the western United States. The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to about 40 million people for municipal use; supply water used to irrigate nearly 4 million acres of land, and is also the lifeblood for at least 22 Native American tribes, 7 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks. Hydropower facilities along the Colorado River provide more than 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity, helping meet the power needs of the West.

Throughout the course of the three-year study, eight interim reports were published to reflect technical developments and public input. Public comments are encouraged on the final study over the next 90 days; comments will be summarized and posted to the website for consideration in future basin planning activities.

The full study – including a discussion of the methodologies and levels of uncertainty – is available at

Water Piped to Denver Could Ease Stress on River

December 13, 2012

By Felicity Barringer via The New York Times on December 9, 2012

The federal government has come up with dozens of ways to enhance the diminishing flow of the Colorado River, which has long struggled to keep seven states and roughly 25 million people hydrated.

Among the proposals in a report by the Bureau of Reclamation, parts of which leaked out in advance of its expected release this week, are traditional solutions to water shortages, like decreasing demand through conservation and increasing supply through reuse or desalination projects.

But also in the mix, and expected to remain in the final draft of the report, is a more extreme and contentious approach. It calls for building a pipeline from the Missouri River to Denver, nearly 600 miles to the west. Water would be doled out as needed along the route in Kansas, with the rest ultimately stored in reservoirs in the Denver area.

The fact that the Missouri River pipeline idea made the final draft, water experts say, shows how serious the problem has become for the states of the Colorado River basin. "I pooh-poohed this kind of stuff back in the 1960s," said Chuck Howe, a water policy expert and emeritus professor of economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "But it’s no longer totally unrealistic. Currently, one can say ‘It’s worth a careful look.’ "

The pipeline would provide the Colorado River basin with 600,000 acre-feet of water annually, which could serve roughly a million single-family homes. But the loss of so much water from the Missouri and Mississippi River systems, which require flows high enough to sustain large vessel navigation, would most likely face strong political opposition.

"If this gets any traction at all, people in the flyover states of the Missouri River basin probably will scream," said Burke W. Griggs, the counsel for the Kansas Agriculture Department’s division of water resources. But, he added, the proposal "shows you the degree to which water-short entities in the Colorado River basin are willing to go to get water" from elsewhere, rather than fight each other over dwindling supplies, as they have intermittently for about a century.

The new report addresses the adequacy of water supplies over the next 50 years in the Colorado basin, which includes the central and southern Rocky Mountains, the deserts of the Southwest and Southern California. The study, the officials said, will serve as a road map for future federal action in collaboration with the Colorado River basin states.

The Denver Post described the pipeline option in an article last week.

As far as future water supplies go, the outlook is not good. Most Colorado River water is currently used for agriculture, but that is beginning to shift as the cities of the Southwest continue to grow.

The effects of climate change could result in less precipitation over the Rockies, further stressing the supply.

Existing agreements among the states that depend on the river oblige those in the upper basin (including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming) to provide a specified amount of flow downstream. The fear, Professor Howe said, is that there will not be enough Colorado water for all, and that downstream states like Arizona and California will nonetheless call for their usual deliveries from the upstream states, renewing old water wars.

To avert that, new sources of supply or a sharp reduction in demand would be required.

Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, said that during the course of the study, the analysis done on climate change and historical data led the agency "to an acknowledged gap" between future demand and future supply as early as the middle of this century.

That is when they put out a call for broader thinking to solve the water problem. "When we did have that wake-up call, we threw open the doors and said, ‘Bring it on,’ " she said. "Nothing is too silly."

Jason Bane of Western Resource Advocates, a conservation organization based in Boulder, Colo., described the Missouri pipeline option as "fundamentally 20th-century water-policy thinking that doesn’t work in the 21st century." He added, "We clearly need to conserve and be more efficient with the water we have."

It is unclear how much such a pipeline project would cost, though estimates run into the billions of dollars. That does not include the cost of the new electric power that would be needed (along with the construction of new generating capacity) to pump the water uphill from Leavenworth, Kan., to the front range reservoirs serving Denver, about a mile above sea level, according to Sharlene Leurig, an expert on water-project financing at Ceres, a nonprofit group based in Boston that works with investors to promote sustainability.

If the Denver area had this new source of water to draw on, it could reduce the supplies that come from the Colorado River basin on the other side of the Continental Divide.

But Mr. Griggs and some federal officials said that the approval of such a huge water project remained highly unlikely.

Ms. Leurig noted that local taxpayers and utility customers would be shouldering most of the expense of such a venture through their tax and water bills, which would make conservation a more palatable alternative.

Chain Reaction 7: People and Environment - Our Heat Habitat

November 30, 2012

Chain Reaction, is a science magazine/web site for students in grades 4-8, published by the Office of Research Communications at Arizona State University. Chain Reaction explores scientific concepts using real research explained by working scientists. Their goal is to spark interest in science and higher education and to provide teachers with a high-quality resource.

Each printed issue of Chain Reaction is built around a topic that the Arizona Science Standards require students to study, and the articles reflect Arizona's standards for K-12 science education. Because students respond so well to it, teachers have found creative ways to incorporate Chain Reaction into other areas of their curriculum, such as language arts units.

Chain Reaction and its staff have earned national awards and recognition from education and communication associations as an outstanding publication for young readers.

Chain Reaction Volume 7 explores how many of the largest and fastest-growing cities on Earth are located in hot places. Big cities make temperatures even higher through the urban heat island effect. The "island" is made up of buildings and roads, houses and parking lots. These human-made materials absorb the sun’s warmth during the day. They keep temperatures high, even in the dark of night when surrounding areas cool off.

Scientists at Arizona State University, including lead scientists Sharon Harlan (principal investigator), Susanne Grossman-Clarke, Darrel Jenerette, Tim Lant, Chris Martin, William Stefanov (co-principal investigators) as well as DCDC researchers Anthony Brazel, Winston Chow, Ben Ruddell, Darren Ruddell and Education Manager Monica Elser, contributed to this Chain Reaction issue.

Download Volume 7 of Chain Reaction.

Colorado River High Flow Experiment

November 19, 2012

via USGS Science Features on November 14, 2012

By Jack Schmidt and Barbara Wilcox

More than 16 years of USGS science will come to fruition next week in the Grand Canyon and its surroundings when the U.S. Department of the Interior releases Colorado River water from Lake Powell reservoir under its new science-based protocol for adaptive management of Glen Canyon Dam.

The November 19 controlled release, called a high-flow experiment, simulates a natural small flood that might have occurred before the dam was completed in 1963. Scientists have shown that floods redistribute sand and mud, thereby creating sandbars that help maintain and restore camping beaches and create favorable conditions for nursery habitat for native fish, including the endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Canyon National Park, and the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Newly created river deposits are also the substrate on which many components of the native ecosystem depend.

At noon Monday, November 19, the dam’s river outlet tubes will be opened. Typically, reservoir releases are routed through power-plant turbines and thereby produce hydroelectricity. However, the outlet tubes allow some reservoir water to bypass the power plant, thereby allowing for larger volumes of water to directly enter the river. Flow through these outlet tubes does not go through the turbines, and these waters do not produce hydroelectricity. The outlet tubes are only used in rare times of high inflow when additional water must be released from the reservoir, or when an environmental objective is served by creating a controlled flood.

Read more at USGS Science Features.

Dave White to speak at Carnegie Mellon University

November 2, 2012

On November 12, 2012, DCDC co-director Dave White will be traveling to the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (CEDM) at Carnegie Mellon University to give a seminar on Boundary Work for Water Sustainability and Urban Climate Adaptation: Lessons from the Decision Center for a Desert City.

CEDM is one of four research centers including DCDC which receives funding from the National Science Foundation under the Decision Making Under Uncertainty program.

Under the direction of PI Morgan Granger, the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making develops and promulgates new and innovative, behaviorally and technically informed insights involving the intersection points between climate and energy. It also generates methods to frame, analyze, and assist key stakeholders in addressing important decisions regarding climate change and the necessary transformation of the world's energy system.

NSF's Decision Making Under Uncertainty Collaborative Groups

In 2004, the National Science Foundation funded a group of Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) collaborative groups for five years. The goal 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.

In 2010, 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. With this funding, 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 ASU and Carnegie Mellon University, the following institutions were awarded NSF cooperative agreements for Decision Making Under Uncertainty:

Talk Abstract

Recent sustainability research has focused on the role of knowledge-action-systems as networks of actors and their future visions, institutions, and the practices and dynamics of knowledge production for environmental decision making. This work highlights the significance of active boundary work to construct, manage, and enhance the interfaces between stakeholders for the co-production of credible, salient, and legitimate knowledge for action. While there is increasing agreement on the broad principles of boundary work, developed through a growing body of case studies, there remains a need to develop a systematic and generalizable explanation of the determinants of effective boundary work and process for evaluating outcomes. In particular, the most likely to produce desired durable outcomes. In this seminar, Dr. White addresses this question with illustrations from the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), an NSF-funded trans-disciplinary collaborative group designed to bridge science and policy for water sustainability and urban climate adaptation in central Arizona. He will discuss challenges inherent in designing, managing, and reflexively evaluating knowledge-action-systems for sustainable development.


November 14 Water/Climate Briefing

October 30, 2012

Dynamics of Water in Urban Ecosystems: Effluent for the Environment

The reuse of effluent, otherwise known as reclaimed or recycled water, is becoming more and more of a commodity as water resource manager’s deal with tightening water budgets. It has many uses including groundwater recharge, cooling for industrial uses and irrigation for crops, public parks and golf courses. Now, it is even being considered as a drinking water supply in places using groundwater recharge/recovery or "toilet-to-tap" technology.

With its many beneficial uses possibly one of the most important is its utilization to support natural environments. Across the country, water that was once considered a nuisance is now being sought after for environmental stream flows and projects such as the Tres Rios wetlands in Phoenix and the Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, both of which create wildlife habitat using effluent.

Join us in a discussion on November 14, 2012, focused on the collaboration, competition, and policy implications of the use of "effluent for the environment."


Peter Fox, Ph.D., Professor, ASU School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Tom Hildebrandt, Wildlife Program Manager (retired), AZ Game & Fish, Central Arizona Regions

Bruce Prior, Hydrologist, City of Tucson Water Department

Robert F. Upham, P.E., Project Manager, Water Resources Division, City of Phoenix


Wednesday, November 14, 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]

New Arizona Indicators Policy Points

October 26, 2012

Arizona Indicators, a project managed by ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy, has just published a new Policy Points by DCDC research analyst, Sally Wittlinger. Sally's Policy Point is entitled, "How Will the Current Drought Affect Our Future Water Supply?"

This Policy Points provides a clear, succinct overview of the status of Arizona’s water supply and what the current drought really means for water availability. Both the effect of climate change on our future water supply and the size of the population that will need to share in that supply are uncertainties that water planners must consider when making decisions regarding our future. We have options, but we have to be sure that we use water efficiently to meet our urban, agricultural, and environmental needs.

Read the entire Policy Points at the Arizona Indicators website.

Decision Center for a Desert City, at the request of the ASU President’s Office, has been contributing to the Sustainability indicators since the inception of the project. These indicators currently are housed in four categories: Air Quality, Water Quality, Urban Heat Island, and Energy. DCDC also now contributes to the three sustainability-related indicator categories on the Transportation tab, Travel Time and Congestion, Commuters’ Mode of Travel, and Public Transportation. Data for these indicators are collected from various public sources and are presented in a way that makes them accessible to the general public.

For more information about DCDC's involvement in the Arizona Indicators project, visit the DCDC website.

Emeritus Professor Tony Brazel Honored

October 26, 2012

October 15, 2012 via ASU News.

Anthony J. Brazel, ASU professor emeritus, has received the Helmet E. Landsberg Award for 2013 from the American Meteorological Society’s Board on the Urban Environment. The AMS is this country’s primary professional society for atmospheric scientists.

"Tony’s recognition by the American Meteorological Society highlights the prominent recognition his work has garnered across a spectrum of geophysical disciplines," said Randall Cerveny, ASU President’s Professor and climatologist in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. "His research papers, with topics that include everything from Phoenix urban dust storms to the intricacies of urban climate energy fluxes, are some of the most highly regarded works by geographical climatologists."

This award is named after Helmut E. Landsberg, a climatologist and Presidential Medal of Science winner who modernized how climate data are used to help solve societal problems. Among other accomplishments, Landsberg made ground-breaking connections between climate and urbanization by helping advance the study of urban climates from a descriptive study to one of physical understanding. In selecting Brazel for the award, the society notes the ASU professor’s "fundamental contributions to the field of urban climatology, especially those related to understanding urban heat islands in desert environments."

Brazel’s work in desert urban climatology began soon after he became director of ASU’s Laboratory of Climatology and governor-designated Arizona State Climatologist in 1979. "With new realizations of climate change at this time, there arose many applied and fundamental research opportunities for colleagues at ASU to investigate the role of urbanization and climate change" said Brazel. "The "research laboratory" was right in front of us – Phoenix, Ariz."

As state climatologist, a position he held until 1999, Brazel and his colleagues worked closely with stakeholders ranging from the National Weather Service, to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, water and energy provider Salt River Project (SRP), and city and county organizations. In the 1980’s, Brazel helped establish a partnership between SRP, ASU, and the State Climate Office that focused on improving short-term weather forecasting models applied to urban areas. Collaborations such as these catalyzed urban climate research, rooted in Phoenix-area and Arizona climate issues, but with implications for the understanding of urban climate globally.

Beginning in the late 1990s, as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAPLTER) Project, Brazel fostered the interdisciplinary study of the region’s urban climate, not only leading research initiatives but also mentoring fellow faculty, postdoctoral and graduate student researchers.

"A simple literature search shows nearly twice as many peer-reviewed research articles dealing with Phoenix’s urban heat island as there are for either New York City or Houston," comments Winston Chow, a research fellow in ASU’s Department of Engineering, College of Technology and Innovation, with a concurrent appointment in the National University of Singapore’s Department of Geography. "This flourishing of research in Phoenix is in large part due to Brazel’s success in advancing partnerships between ASU and local stakeholders."

"Another important aspect of his work," Chow adds, "is his dedication to geographical fieldwork. Tony has trained numerous students to value the importance of its proper practice, which is key to excellent research."

"Brazel’s work in urban climatology – particularly in desert urban climatology – over the last four decades has, quite literally, shaped the fundamental concepts and themes for current research into this increasingly vital and important scientific and social topic," observes Luc Anselin, Regents’ Professor and School of Geographical Sciences director

Brazel is an emeritus professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 2010, he received the Association of American Geographers Climate Specialty Group Lifetime Achievement Award. Brazel remains as a senior sustainability scholar with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, is editor of the Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, and serves on the Editorial Board of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers.

Brazel will receive the Landsberg Award at the society’s national meeting, which takes place in Austin, Texas, Jan. 6-10, 2013.

The Darwinian Moment: A Narrative for Adaptation

October 19, 2012

On Thursday, October 25, 2012, Captain Wayne Porter, USN, Chair, Systemic Strategy and Complexity at the Naval Postgraduate School, will present the first Wrigley Lecture Series of the 2012-2013 academic year. He will be discussing his piece, "A National Strategic Narrative," co-authored with Colonel Mark Mykleby. The narrative argues for a need of a sustainability context when protecting our nation's prosperity and security. It is now time to move the nation from a Cold War strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainability designed to address our enduring interests in a dynamic environment.

Captain Porter has served operational tours in England, Japan, Italy, the Balkans, and Bahrain. His personal awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Defense Superior Service Medal, three Legions of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal, and the Vice Admiral Rufus B. Taylor Award for Professional Excellence in Intelligence for his work in southern Serbia.

Please RSVP.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

(reception will follow)

Old Main, Carson Ballroom

Arizona State University, Tempe campus

Living in the Desert: Decisions and Consequences

October 12, 2012

Water is an essential resource for human settlement. Regardless of the climate or economy, if there is not an adequate supply of water to meet the water demands of a community, the community cannot be sustainable. Thus managing water supply and demand so that demand does not exceed supply will be an essential component of any communities plan for sustainability. Such management, referred to as water resources management, in urbanized regions can be very complicated. The systems used to collect water from multiple sources, treat it, deliver it to community residents, collect the wastewater, treat it, and safely dispose or reuse it are typically complex highly regulated systems often operated by multiple agencies over different geographies that can span hundreds of miles.

Management of such complex systems is further complicated by the future uncertainty in the factors that affect water supply and demand. Such uncertainties include: possible changes in the future growth or decline of a community and the behavior of its residents to use water, possible change is future of climate conditions of the community, and the ability of government and private institutions to respond to these changes in a manner that maintains a balance between water supply and demand.

The Exhibit

Beginning October 12, 2012, Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix will open their exhibit entitled, "Living in the Desert: Decisions and Consequences" featuring the DCDC WaterSim kiosk.

This collaboration between Pueblo Grande and Arizona State University brings the new exhibit, "Living in the Desert: Decisions and Consequences", to the Changing Gallery. The exhibit explores trade-offs made in the quest for desert sustainability in ancient, historic, and modern times. It includes a focus on water use from the Hohokam canal system through the allocation of Colorado River water today. The population of the southwestern United States can learn from the experiences of the Hohokam 1000 years ago.


To better understand how these uncertainties affect the complex tasks of water resources management, the Decision Center for a Desert City has been using a water and supply demand model, called WaterSim. The WaterSim kiosk offers a very basic and simplified version of our WaterSim model using a touchscreen device. This model has been implemented for the Central Arizona region and used primarily in four ways.

  • Understand the dynamic nature of managing a complex water supply and demand system for urban regions.
  • Explore the effectiveness of various water management policies.
  • Explore the uncertainty of regional growth and climate change by understanding the impact different growth and climate change scenarios may have on the region’s complex water system and management policies.
  • Explore how people make decisions for highly complex problems that are subject to high uncertainty.

Visit Pueblo Grande Museum.

DCDC Water/Climate Briefing Video

October 2, 2012

Beginning this academic year, you can find video of our Water/Climate Briefings on the DCDC website under each Water/Climate Briefing heading. We're excited about this opportunity to reach a broader audience with our ongoing research.

Currently, our Water/Climate Briefing from September 5, 2012 on Dynamics of Water in an Urban Ecosystem is available.

New DCDC Publication

September 26, 2012

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

September 25, 2012

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

September 24, 2012

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]

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

September 11, 2012

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."