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2012 AAAS Annual Meeting

February 8, 2012

Graduate students from the Decision Center for a Desert City's Community of Graduate Research Scholars will present their research at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver on February 19. They will be accompanied by DCDC Co-PI Margaret Nelson and DCDC Associate Director, Dave White. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association.

DCDC Graduate Research Assistant, Lauren Keeler, will have the opportunity stand in on behalf of DCDC Researcher Dr. Arnim Wiek in a session on climate change visualization and communication, entitled, Beyond Climate Models: Rethinking How To Envision the Future with Climate Change.

Lauren will be speaking for a few minutes on ASU's Decision Theater and the ability of tools like it to engage people in thinking about climate change and future uncertainty. She will also speak about the need to merry such tools with strong stakeholder engagement processes in order to bring our research closer to relevant decision making scales.

After Lauren's presentation, she will facilitate a breakout group discussion on the potential for decision theaters to improve climate change communication and knowledge among decision makers and the general public.

DCDC Graduate Research Assistants participating in the February 19 AAAS General Poster Session include:

Rebecca Neel, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant
Status, Family, Sex, and Good Neighbors: Landscaping Conveys Personality

Do people use their lawns to look sexy, high status, and family friendly? Previous research shows that recycling and taking public transportation, among other behaviors, can convey a less positive or desirable image, which may prove a barrier to behavior change. We extended this research to examine the image that landscaping portrays for a sample from Phoenix, Arizona, where water resources are scarce and homeowners’ landscaping options range from the water-intensive (grass lawns) to more water-conserving (desert plants and rocks). We hypothesized that owners’ grass or desert landscape choices are seen to convey very different personalities. Across three samples, participants rated the personality characteristics of a new homeowner on dimensions of agreeableness, being a good neighbor, status, sexual attractiveness, family orientation, creativity, prosociality, environmentalism, Big Five personality ratings, and positivity. Participants were randomly assigned to read that the person in question chose either a desert or a grass lawn for their new home. Inferred motivations for choosing desert or grass were also measured. We found consensus among participants that a desert landscape conveys a lower-status, less sexually attractive, family-unfriendly image–suggesting that even among those who might see people with desert landscaping as fine neighbors, they still perceive those individuals to be lower status and not family-oriented. Perceived motivations largely corroborated perceived attributes: Whereas aesthetic preference was perceived as the primary motivation for choosing either a desert or lawn landscape, secondary motivations differed. Desert landscaping was perceived to be more motivated by environmentalism, money savings, and ease of maintenance, whereas grass landscaping was perceived to reflect a desire to interact with one’s neighbors and to raise a family. Our choice of lawn may thus convey much to our neighbors about both our own quality as a neighbor and community member. To the extent that landscaping paints the image of a relatively unfriendly, low-status, unsexy or child-averse person, inferences may prove a barrier to encouraging native landscape adoption, as making such a choice might not only incur a financial cost in the value of the home, but a concurrent cost in self-image.

Lauren Withycombe Keeler, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant

Selecting and Assessing Distinct Scenarios for Sustainable Water Governance Strategies

Sustainable water governance strategies and policy need to be guided by a comprehensive vision of a sustainable water system and account for uncertainty through robust performance against a spectrum of distinct future scenarios. Climate and water science in general have made significant progress over the last years in understanding the complexity of regional climate-water systems, progress well exemplified by the work of the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University. This success has been demonstrated through the development of sophisticated system dynamics models elaborated further by including energy and econometric models, such as the WaterSim model from DCDC. However, dynamic models in general, and WaterSim in particular, have been limited in their application and not fully utilized for policy-making and governance. Reasons for this limited applicability include: dynamic water-climate models are not generally used to construct distinct, recognizable futures scenarios (such as the IPCC stress scenarios); water-climate models are still evaluated on their ability to forecast the future which limits their scope and potential to guide planning; results of the model are often not evaluated against a comprehensive set of criteria; and finally, dynamic models are often not used to their full potential in a constructive way, to develop future pathways and strategies. To address these deficits in water-climate models and enhance the usability of the WaterSim model, plausible future scenarios were constructed based on stakeholder and decision maker input and output from WaterSim that includes external social and natural factors of uncertainty (e.g., long-term drought, growth, and climate change). Results include a set of 5 distinct, recognizable future scenarios that identify critical key factors and policies that serve to guide decision-making related to water and conceptualize the systemic consequences of water management and mismanagement beyond groundwater overdraft. The scenarios explicate the possible impacts of climate change as well as resource management and economic development decisions at the municipality and metropolitan scales in Central Arizona. In this way, the scenarios contribute to further scientific and political dialogue regarding water management in the face of climate change and close the gap between scientific knowledge about climate change impacts and the adaptive capacity of decision makers.

Gretchen Hawkins, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant

Distributed Hydrologic Modeling of the Beaver Creek Watershed: A Platform for Land Cover and Climate Change Assessments

Watershed management is challenged by rising concerns over climate change and its potential to interact with land cover alterations to impact regional water supplies and hydrologic processes. The inability to conduct experimental manipulations that address climate and land cover change at watershed scales limits the capacity of water managers to make decisions to protect future supplies. As a result, spatially-explicit, physically-based models possess value for predicting the possible consequences on watershed hydrology. In this study, we apply a distributed watershed model, the Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN)-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS), to the Beaver Creek basin in Arizona. This sub-basin of the Verde River is representative of the regional topography, land cover, soils distribution and availability of hydrologic data. As such, it can serve as a demonstration study in the broader region to illustrate the utility of distributed models for change assessment studies. Through a model application to summertime conditions, we compare the hydrologic response to two sources of meteorological input: (1) an available network of ground-based stations and (2) weather radar rainfall estimates. Comparisons focus on the spatiotemporal distribution of precipitation, soil moisture, runoff generation, evapotranspiration and recharge from the root zone at high resolution. We also present a preliminary analysis of the impact of vegetation change arising from historical treatments in the Beaver Creek to inform the hydrologic consequences in the form of soil moisture and evaportranspiration patterns with differing degrees of proposed forest thinning. Our results are discussed in the context of improved hydrologic predictions for decision-making under the uncertainties induced by combined climate and land cover change.

Julia C. Bausch, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant

Half Full?: Buffering Central Arizona Farmers from Signals of Environmental Change

Climate change and population growth have far-reaching implications for stressed water resources in the arid American Southwest. This poster explores the impact of current water regulations on the adaptive behaviors of farmers in Arizona. In 1980, Arizona passed what is considered the most comprehensive and progressive water management policy in the country, the Groundwater Management Act (GMA). The GMA was intended to reduce overdraft of groundwater resources, particularly within the agricultural sector, which uses seventy percent of the state’s water supply. Currently, Arizona is in the midst of drought, yet Arizona farmers have increased the area planted in cotton and alfalfa, both water-intensive crops, in response to high commodity prices. We hypothesized that Arizona farmers do not perceive signals of environmental change due to a mismatch between the institutional environment and emergent threats to future water availability, potentially making agriculture a major vulnerability to Arizona’s water supply in times of water scarcity. Using a mixed methods approach, including institutional analysis, statistical analysis of agricultural census data, and semi-structured interviews, we assess what factors affect farmers’ decision-making about water use in Central Arizona. Interview participants included farmers, water managers, water lawyers, and scholars. The results of our study reveal that farmers are buffered from signals of environmental change in four ways: 1) Technologically: Irrigation buffers farmers from dependence on and awareness of precipitation. 2) Geographically: Arizona farmers are physically distant from their water sources, reducing awareness of environmental change. 3) Economically: water is currently abundant and affordable for farmers. 4) Politically: To protect its Colorado River allocation from usurpation by Nevada and California, Arizona has adopted a policy of consuming all of its annual allocation, making water conservation in central Arizona a secondary concern. Given the reality of buffers, if there is public interest in farmer’s participation in adaptation to water scarcity, we should more closely consider how signals of change are communicated in the agricultural sector.

Geetali Dudhbhate, DCDC Graduate Research Assistant
An Empathy-Driven, Decision-Making Game To Guide Water Sustainability Related Policy Outcomes

As the economy and the business environment has become more diverse and competitive, at both the individual and organizational levels our use of natural resources exceeds our need. The greed for natural resources has troubling consequences in terms of worldwide economic health and quality of life. It is very challenging to find out how people will collectively behave given the problem of resource sustainability. This research will integrate technology with empathy so as to make the problem less intrusive and will primarily focus on water resources. Focus will be on the development of a decisional game which is based on a series of scenarios and the associated rules, roles and responsibilities for the participants. This game will simulate decisional orientations, approaches and outcomes for policy makers and other stakeholders who contribute to water and other urban climate adaptation issues. Individual participants will take the role of specific water providers and thereafter the game roles of participants will be swapped. The research will test how water providers cooperate under conditions of climate change. Purpose is to test empathy through changing participation levels and to check if it can lead to positive policy options. This game will leverage WaterSim(developed by the NSF funded DCDC at ASU). WaterSim links knowledge about water supply and demand under current and future climate conditions at the water provider level. WaterSim will be adapted and linked to our computer mediated environment such that the results from our study will provide a richer understanding of decisional implications and policy options for addressing water sustainability issues.

Lessons from ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City

January 25, 2012

On January 27, 2012 from 11:30-12:45pm, Dave White, Associate Director of DCDC, will give a talk on Advancing Theory and Methods for Boundary Organizations at the Interface of Science and Policy: Lessons from the ASU Decision Center for a Desert City.

The School of Public Affairs colloquium will be held in UCENT 822A at the Downtown Phoenix campus on 411 North Central Avenue in Phoenix.

DCDC Researchers at CAP LTER Poster Symposium

January 9, 2012

DCDC researchers will be participating in the fourteenth anniversary of the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) Project at Arizona State University. The Fourteenth Annual All Scientists Meeting and Poster Symposium, "Synthesizing Urban Systems Research," will be held on January 13, 2012 in the Convergence Room at Arizona State University’s SkySong facility.

Poster session #1 from 11:30am - 12:30pm

Climate, Ecosystems and People

Land Use, Land Cover and Land Architecture

Water Dynamics in a Desert City

Bausch, J. C., J. P. Connors, C. Rubinos, H. Eakin, R. Aggarwal, and A. York. Agriculture around a desert city: Perspectives on decisions for water, land and livelihood.

Climate change and population growth have far-reaching implications for water resources in the arid American Southwest. Despite the rapid pace of urbanization in Arizona, agriculture accounts for around 70% of total water use in the state. This study is based on interviews conducted with a wide range of stakeholders in agriculture from July -December 2011 to get multiple cross-scale perspectives on the historical and current stresses on agriculture in the Phoenix metropolitan area and the role of irrigation institutions in influencing agricultural water use. The analysis explicitly considered how recent events, such as the recession and boom in commodity prices have influenced farmers' decisions. The results illustrate that while irrigation infrastructure has largely buffered farmers from inter-annual variability in water availability, interviewees noted several other stresses related to development pressures, labor availability, air quality regulations and energy costs. On one hand, the expansion of agricultural acreage and water demand in since 2007 demonstrates the vitality of agriculture in Central Arizona. On the other hand, it alerts us to the limitations of irrigation institutions and infrastructure in conveying the right signals about future water scarcity. Looking forward, uncertainties in water availability, urbanization pressures, and U.S. farm policy challenge the long-term viability of agriculture in Central Arizona. This analysis underscores the complexity of the farm decision environment, suggesting that if farmers are to play specific roles in Central Arizona’s water future, policy makers will need to understand the factors that underlie farmers' decision making and the circumstances that maintain farm viability around the metropolitan area.

Middel, A., A. J. Brazel, S. Kaplan, and S. W. Myint. Summer cooling efficiency of landscapes in Phoenix, AZ.

The summer cooling-water use tradeoff is investigated for different landscapes in Phoenix, Arizona using calculations of atmospheric energy fluxes from a model called the Local-Scale Urban Meteorological Parameterization Scheme (LUMPS, after Grimmond and Oke, 2002) and a cooling efficiency concept after Shashua-Bar et al. (2009). We examined two summer days in 2005 to analyze the cooling efficiency of different land cover mixes in the urban core. LUMPS model results were correlated to surface temperatures from Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) imagery and reference evapotranspiration values from a meteorological station for validation. Cooling efficiency was estimated from daytime sensible and latent heat flux differences of the LUMPS raw fluxes for urban surfaces and the desert. Results indicate that cooling at night is strongly influenced by the heat storage capacity of different land cover types and by the amount of vegetation. Efficiency index results suggest that overall, the Phoenix urban core is slightly more efficient at cooling than the desert, but efficiencies do not increase much with wet fractions higher than 20%. Industrial sites with high impervious surface cover and low wet fraction result in negative cooling efficiencies compared to the desert. Findings indicate that low to moderately dry neighborhoods with heterogeneous land uses are the most efficient landscapes in balancing cooling and water use in Phoenix. However, further factors such as energy use and human vulnerability to extreme heat waves have to be considered in the cooling-water use tradeoff, especially under the uncertainties of future warming of the climate.

Sampson, D. A., and R. Quay. An application programmer's interface (API) to WaterSim; WaterSim 5.0.

Our mission at the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) is to "conduct climate, water, and decision research and to develop innovative tools to bridge the boundary between scientists and decision makers in order to put our work into the hands of those whose concern is for the sustainable future of Greater Phoenix." The WaterSim water policy and management model represents one of the core tools created, updated, and maintained by DCDC. We use WaterSim to examine the potential impact of uncertainties in climate and policies on water supply and demand. The newest version of WaterSim—WaterSim 5.0—represents a radical departure from previous versions. Our newly released, provider-level model (individual water providers are modeled separately but evaluated in the aggregate) includes: 1) a city infrastructure model that simulates the movement of water through a standard city system including the water use chain starting from water supply and treatment to delivery to residential and commercial users and, eventually, effluent production and the possible pathways of reclaimed and recycled water; 2) a hierarchical demand-based water supply module; and 3) an open source API and associated documentation which enables others to freely use the WaterSim model for their own research, education, and outreach. This poster presents the programmatic structure and function of WaterSim 5.0 and highlights the potential applications of the model for the decision making arena.

Hiring: DCDC Postdoctoral Research Associate

December 9, 2011

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Arizona State University

Decision Center for a Desert City

Location: Tempe Campus

Full/Part Time: Full-Time

Regular/Temporary: Regular Fiscal Appointment

Position Type

This is a grant funded position. Continuation is contingent on future grant funding. Appointments are year-to-year, with subsequent renewal, based upon performance, the needs of the department, and availability of funding.

Job Description

The Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) and the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University seek a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the decision making under uncertainty related to water sustainability and urban climate adaptation.

Expertise in one or more of the following research areas is highly desirable:

  • decision making under uncertainty
  • climate change uncertainties
  • urban climate adaptation
  • psychology of environmental decision making
  • urban systems dynamics
  • vulnerability, resilience and risk
  • science-policy interactions and boundary organizations
  • hydrological and water simulation modeling

Anticipated Start Date

July 1, 2012

Hiring Range

$38,000 - $42,000 annually depending on experience; plus benefits.

Minimum Qualifications

Earned Ph.D. at the time of appointment.

Desired Qualifications

Demonstrated experience in interdisciplinary environmental research, strong social science skills including quantitative and qualitative analyses and spatial analyses, and strong verbal and written communication skills.

Department Info

The Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University (ASU) was established in 2004 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance scientific understanding of environmental decision making under conditions of uncertainty. Bolstered by Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU) collaborative groups funding from the NSF, "DCDC II" was launched in October 2010 and is poised to expand its already-extensive research agenda, further engage the policy community, and forge stronger ties between knowledge and action. In this second phase of DCDC funding, we will develop fundamental knowledge about decision making from three interdisciplinary perspectives: climatic uncertainties, urban-system dynamics, and adaptation decisions. Simulation modeling and boundary organization studies are cross-cutting themes and will be core DCDC activities.

To date, DCDC has produced: (1) a critical mass of basic research, including over 200 articles, books, and book chapters (65 of these appearing to date in 2010–2011); (2) WaterSim, a dynamic water-simulation model that serves as an important basis for stakeholder engagement and decision support, a point of articulation for interdisciplinary research, and an experimental setting to study decision making under uncertainty; (3) an extensive network of relationships with regional water managers and resource decision makers; (4) productive partnerships with research and education efforts affiliated with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), including the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, the Decision Theater, and the School of Sustainability; and (5) a significant and growing set of comparative and collaborative partnerships linking our Phoenix-based case study to water sustainability and urban climate adaptation efforts nationally and internationally.

As our mission has evolved to focus not only on water sustainability but also urban climate adaptation, DCDC researchers now work to develop and implement decision-support processes for environmental decision making. Through an integrated approach to research and education, DCDC trains a new generation of scientists who work successfully at the boundaries of science and policy. DCDC II continues to build bridges between science and policy to foster local-to-global sustainability solutions. For additional information about the Decision Center for a Desert City, visit DCDC.

Instructions to Apply

To apply, submit curriculum vitae, two research papers, a letter of interest, and the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of three professional references by email to

Application Close Date

Initial close date is December 31, 2011. Applications will continue to be reviewed until position is filled.

Background Check Statement

ASU conducts pre-employment screening for all positions which includes a criminal background check, verification of work history, academic credentials, licenses, and certifications.

Arizona State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.

Network Determinants of Knowledge Utilization

December 8, 2011

DCDC Publication (in press)

Network Determinants of Knowledge Utilization: Preliminary Lessons From a Boundary Organization

By Beatrice I. Crona (1,2) and John N. Parker (3,4)


This study examines the socio-organizational model of science-policy knowledge transfer. Using social network analysis, the authors study how interactions between researchers-policy makers affect utilization of research by policy makers in a boundary organization designed to mediate between research and policy communities. Two types of social interactions with independent effects on utilization are identified. Policy makers with more direct contacts with researchers are more likely to utilize research. Policy makers interacting more with other policy makers regarding research are also more likely to utilize it. This indicates the importance of policy makers’ embeddedness in social networks and the importance of external reputation of boundary organizations for successful knowledge transfer.

Case Study and Research Context

Figure 1 Network of interaction between researchers and policy makers participating in the boundary organization
Our case study is the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), housed at Arizona State University. DCDC is funded through the National Science Foundation’s Decision Making Under Uncertainty program. It is specifically designed as a boundary organization with the goal of enhancing long-term decision making about urban water resources in arid, rapidly growing Phoenix, Arizona. As stated in a project summary, DCDC "seeks to build a new model of science and policy engagement that allows decision makers and scientists to collaborate on important research questions and experiment with new methods" (Crona & Parker, 2009).

DCDC operates in the highly politicized context surrounding water management and urban development in the arid Southwestern United States. The Phoenix metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing urban centers in the United States, and tensions between urban development, economic growth, and environmental sustainability arise continuously (Gober, 2006; Gober, Kirkwood, Balling, Ellis, & Deitrick, 2010). Against this complex backdrop, DCDC was created in 2004 to support research from a diverse range of disciplines, including both the social and natural sciences, and to facilitate its transfer to the policy sphere. To date, the research has consisted primarily of social vulnerability assessments, climatic and hydrological models, science-policy research, and the development of new drought indices.

In its capacity as a boundary organization, DCDC engages over 150 researchers and policy actors but only employs around a dozen support and administrative staff. It meets all of the criteria definitive of a boundary organization. Most characteristically, it involves participation by both scientists and policy makers. DCDC leaders have accomplished this in three main ways.

  • First, DCDC leaders developed a regular forum ("water and climate briefings") where researchers and policy makers meet to discuss research and its implications for water policy. The forum was designed to provide a depoliticized space that would facilitate interaction among these groups. When surveyed, policy makers indicated that these meetings were the main way in which the organization had influenced the water policy community, with over 60% indicating that their network of contacts in the water policy community had grown as a result (Crona & Parker, 2009).
  • Second, they hold semiregular panels of expert speakers involving members of both communities; and third, they hired a professional liaison to act as a mediator between researchers and policy makers. DCDC has also created a number of boundary objects, the most important of which is WaterSim, a regional-scale simulation model of water supply and demand that integrates climate, land use, and population growth data to examine future water use scenarios (see White et al., 2010).
  • Finally, DCDC has distinct lines of accountability to both the research and policy communities. Accountability to the research community is via its formal ties to the university and the National Science Foundation, and accountability to the policy community is by virtue of the inclusion of policy makers on its advisory board.

1 Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

2 Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

3 National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

4 Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University

Educators teach water conservation

December 7, 2011

by John Felty, Salt River Project

December 2, 2011 via East Valley Tribune

When you live in the desert, water conservation is a way of life.

Salt River Project has been promoting conservation for more than 100 years and we recently launched Together We Conserve, a multi-faceted educational effort aimed at water conservation while explaining how SRP's investments in water infrastructure, management and planning helped the Valley grow into one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.

Valley schoolchildren also are now gaining a comprehensive understanding of our water supply and the importance of water-conservation and efficiency. Students are getting this information thanks to what their teachers learned last spring and summer at the inaugural Celebrating Fresh Water in Arizona Educator Academy, presented by SRP, Phoenix, Project WET and the Arizona Geographic Alliance.

Educators learned about the Valley's water portfolio, from the history of 100-year-old Theodore Roosevelt Dam to the expertise required to manage and deliver water to the Valley from a 13,000-square-mile watershed. That first wave of 80 academy graduates is just beginning to incorporate water knowledge gained at the freshwater academy into their classroom curriculum.

Karen Guerrero, a science teacher and parent at the Accelerated Foreign Language Academy in Gilbert, is one of the first graduates from the program. Karen recently launched a water curriculum at a "Celebrating Arizona" event at Mesa Community College's Red Mountain Campus. More than 50 future educators at MCC were involved in teaching about Arizona geography and water to the K-5 dual-language students from Gilbert Elementary School. Karen plans to teach water conservation throughout the school year in a program that will culminate with a Family Water Night event in the spring.

The Together We Conserve campaign will also reach out to students in early December when SRP will name a Valley school as the first winner of the "Flat Dewey" competition. The "Flat Dewey" program was designed to encourage fourth-grade students to learn about water supplies and resources throughout Arizona. The winning school will get a pizza party and a visit from SRP's "Dewey" water mascot, which inspired the "Flat Dewey" competition as a way for students to think about how water impacts their lives on a daily basis.

For more water-saving tips and other fun contest opportunities, please visit SRP's website.

Gilbert resident John Felty is the manager of Water Shareholder Relations & Sustainability at Salt River Project.

Dec 6 DCDC Water/Climate Briefing

November 29, 2011

Cotton, Condos, and Climate: Agriculture and Arizona’s Water Future

Decision-makers in Arizona are comforted by the idea that water can be diverted from farms to cities in the face of future water scarcity. The assumption has been that historic trends in farm retirement will continue into the future, releasing water for urban use. However, rapid changes in economic, environmental and policy conditions now challenge this assumption.

  • What current and possible future conditions divert water from farms to cities?
  • How are recent changes in the economy, policy and the environment affecting farmers’ and water managers’ decisions about water allocations?
  • Should Arizona rely on agriculture to fulfill a buffering role in the face of future water uncertainties?

A panel of agriculture and water resource practitioners and professionals will discuss these and other issues associated with agriculture, urban growth and Arizona’s future demand for water.

This DCDC Water/Climate briefing explores the climate-water-agriculture-nexus in Arizona. Over the coming year, academic researchers, farmers, water managers, and other stakeholders throughout Arizona will continue this work and will provide new insights into this critical challenge.

December 6, 2011 | 12:00-1:30pm | Lunch will be served

DCDC Conference Room

Please RSVP:


  • Paco Ollerton, Cotton Grower
  • Jim Holway, Director, Western Lands and Communities, a Lincoln Institute of Land Policy-Sonoran Institute Joint Venture
  • Brian Betcher, Manager, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, Pinal County
  • Joe Sigg, Director of Government Relations, Arizona Farm Bureau


School of Sustainability graduate students from the workshop, "Adaptation, Resilience and Transformation."


  • Rimjhim Aggarwal, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability
  • Hallie Eakin, Associate Professor, School of Sustainability


Map and Parking

Decision Center for a Desert City

Global Institute of Sustainability

Arizona State University

21 East 6th Street, Suite 126B

Tempe, AZ 85281

(480) 965-3367


In the News

November 8, 2011

December 6, DCDC Water/Climate Briefing, Cotton, Condos, and Climate: Agriculture and Arizona's Water Future. Organized by School of Sustainability graduate students, this DCDC Water/Climate Briefing explores the climate-water-agriculture-nexus in Arizona. Over the coming year, academic researchers, farmers, water managers, and other stakeholders throughout Arizona will continue this work and will provide new insights into this critical challenge.

Using Social Psychology to Promote Sustainability. Our colleagues, Susan Ledlow and Mick Dalrymple at Energize Phoenix are featured prominently in The Atlantic Cities article, "In Arizona, Reducing Water and Energy Use Through Peer Pressure."

ASU ‘Changing Planet’ town hall airs Nov. 16 on The Weather Channel. This edition of "Changing Planet" brings together over 400 students and features four leading experts from science, academia and politics: Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico; Grady Gammage Jr., senior sustainability scholar with the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and senior research fellow with the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and Heidi Cullen, former climate expert for The Weather Channel and current research scientist and correspondent with "Climate Central."

Check out DCDC researcher David Sampson's interview on Fox News as part of ASU student Daryl Bjoraas' exploration of innovative techniques used to conserve water in Phoenix.

Rating Phoenix Sustainability: What Matters Most by Grady Gammage at ASU. It is understandable that Phoenix strikes people as a fragile place. But at the end of the day, the verdict on urban sustainability is not about geography, but about politics. Before we brand Phoenix as "the world’s least sustainable city," we need to figure out how to rate political foresight and willpower. The real measure of sustainability is in how a place responds to challenges.

In Phoenix, the Dark Side of the 'Green' City by Andrew Ross in The New York Times. While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing.

In Arizona, Reducing Water and Energy Use Through Peer Pressure by Emily Badger at The Atlantic. The city of Phoenix, Arizona State University and the local power utility are trying to figure this out in a three-year project funded by a federal stimulus grant. The program, Energize Phoenix, is targeting 1,800 residential units and 30 million square feet of commercial space in an effort to get people to go for the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency.

Engineering alum helps Arizona meet its water challenges. Among certainties about life in the desert Southwest are that the supply, use, conservation and management of water will always be pressing issues. So it’s certain that Arizona State University and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering alumnus Michael Johnson will have a hand in shaping Arizona’s future.

Better economics: supporting adaptation with stakeholder analysis by Muyeye Chambwera, Ye Zou, Mohamed Boughlala. Across the developing world, decision makers understand the need to adapt to climate change — particularly in agriculture, which supports a large proportion of low-income groups who are especially vulnerable to impacts such as increasing water scarcity or more erratic weather.

2011 Water/Climate Briefing Keynote Address

November 1, 2011

Our Energy-Efficiency Paradox: Psychological Barriers to 'No-Brainer' Solutions

Elke U. Weber, Keynote Speaker

Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business

Founder and Co-director, Center for the Decision Sciences (CDS) and the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED)

Columbia University

November 30, 2011 | 9:30-11:00am | ASU's Memorial Union Turquoise Room 220

Please RSVP:

Talk Abstract

Of all environmentally-relevant decisions, the adoption of energy-efficiency technologies would appear to be a 'no-brainer,' yet these solutions are vastly underused. In this talk, Dr. Weber will highlight the psychological reasons for this paradox and suggest ways in which we can harness cognitive limitations to spark greater adoption of win-win solutions.

About Elke Weber

via The Earth Institute. Elke Weber has made it her life’s work to understand why and how people make the decisions they make. Not a simple task. Take, for example, smoking cigarettes. Doctors’ warnings of the deadly consequences of becoming addicted to cigarettes have been publicized for nearly 50 years now, but this hasn’t stopped millions of people from taking up the habit since. Irrational? Many would argue so. And what about other, less direct forms of unhealthy behavior that seem irrational? A perfect example today would be the continuation of practices known to cause catastrophic damage to our planet’s environment, and by extension, to ourselves.

Working at the intersection of psychology and economics, Weber is an expert on behavioral models of judgment and decision making under risk and uncertainty. Recently, she has been investigating psychologically appropriate ways to measure and model individual and cultural differences in risk taking, specifically in risky financial situations and environmental issues. She describes her research as follows:

"I try to gain an understanding and appreciation of decision making at a broad range of levels of analysis, which is not easy, given that each level requires different theories, methods and tools. So at the micro end of the continuum, I study how basic psychological processes like attention, emotion and memory (and their representation in the brain) influence preference and choice. At the macro end of the continuum, I think about how policy makers may want to present policy initiatives to the public to make them maximally effective. This range of topics and methods is challenging, but at least in my mind the different levels of analysis inform and complement each other."

Currently, Weber is focusing the majority of her time on two very different, but crucial issues: "… environmental decisions, in particular responses to climate change and climate variability, and financial decisions, for example pension savings." Like all of her research topics, even these seemingly unrelated issues are linked in that both involve choices with consequences that are delayed in time and are often highly uncertain.

Read The New York Times article featuring Elke Weber, Why Isn't the Brain Green? by Jon Gertner. Decision scientists are trying to figure out why it’s so hard for us to get into a green mind-set. Their answers may be more crucial than any technological advance in combating environmental challenges.


Elke U. Weber is the Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business at Columbia Business School, with appointments also in Psychology and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Her MA and PhD are from Harvard University. Previous academic positions include the University of Chicago and visiting appointments in Germany, UK, Denmark, Switzerland, as well as fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, and the Russell Sage Foundation in New York.

Weber is an expert on behavioral models of judgment and decision-making under risk and uncertainty. Recently she has been investigating psychologically and neurally plausible ways to measure and model individual differences decisions under risk and uncertainty, specifically in financial and environmental contexts.

Weber is past president of the Society for Mathematical Psychology, the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, and the Society for Neuroeconomics. She has served on advisory committees of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, related to human dimensions in global change, edited two decision science journals and serves on the editorial boards of eight psychology and social science journals. At Columbia, she founded and co-directs the Center for the Decision Sciences (CDS), which fosters and facilitates cross-disciplinary research and graduate training in the basic and applied decision sciences and the NSF DMUU funded Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED), which investigates ways of facilitating human adaptation to climate change and climate variability. She will serve as a Lead Author in Working Group III (on mitigation) for the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


The most convenient parking for this DCDC Water/Climate Briefing at ASU's Memorial Union can be found at the Apache Parking structure at the intersection of Apache Blvd and College in Tempe. Parking rates are $2/hour with a maximum of $8.00.

AZ Indicators UHI Panel

October 25, 2011

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.

Panelists included:

  • 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.

DCDC Water/Climate Briefing

October 20, 2011

October 26 | 12:00-1:30pm | DCDC Conference Room

Assistant Professor Kelli L. Larson and environmental psychologist Susan Ledlow will present research ranging from human environment interactions and water resource governance to aspects of human nature that constitute potential obstacles to solving problems of sustainability or that might facilitate our ability to make sustainable decisions.

This year's DCDC Water/Climate Briefing theme focuses on a branch of behavioral research situated at the intersection of psychology and economics. Our researchers are exploring the mental processes that shape our choices, behaviors and attitudes, and employ both evolutionary and sociocultural models to understand environmental decision making.

Dr. Larson's interests lie at the intersection between human-environment interactions and water resource governance. Focusing on urban ecosystems in recent years, her work aims to understand how diverse people frame social-ecological risks and what they are willing to do in order to ameliorate them. Her research presentation will focus on environmental concerns, risk perceptions, and policy attitudes regarding water issues in metropolitan Phoenix, including how assorted perspectives vary by gender, cultural domains, and the public, policy, and science spheres. The implications of this work speak to enhancing societal support and actions for sustainability, encompassing both collaborative decision-making and conservation practices.

Susan Ledlow is part of a team of psychologists who are adding experimental approaches to the suite of DCDC research activities. Their work takes an evolutionary functional approach to human decision-making. They are particularly interested in aspects of human nature that constitute potential obstacles to solving problems of sustainability, or that might facilitate our ability to make sustainable decisions. Susan will present results from a number of experiments they have conducted over the last two years related to residential water use, self-presentational aspects of landscaping, and framing persuasive messaging using motives related to status or kinship.

Ray Quay at Science Café, October 21

October 17, 2011

Will Arizona's climate change leave us thirsty?

Have you found yourself complaining about the heat more than usual? If you answered yes, then there’s a sound explanation. Record books show Arizona’s climate is drier than years past and hotter than ever before!

What does this climate change mean for us? Could we be faced with a massive water shortage in the near future? Find out with Arizona State University researchers, Nancy Selover and Ray Quay at Science Café hosted by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society.

Nancy Selover is a Research Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University and Arizona State Climatologist in the State Climate Office.

Ray Quay is Director of Stakeholder Relations at the National Science Foundation's Decision Center for a Desert City, a research center in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Friday, October 21, 2011 | 7-8 p.m. | Free Admission

600 E Washington Street

Phoenix, AZ


SRP Opens Roosevelt Dam Gates

October 12, 2011

via AZ Republic on October 12, 2011.

Salt River Project opened the spillways at Roosevelt Dam on Tuesday morning, creating a rare spectacle of water gushing into the upper Salt River about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix.

SRP tests the two spillways periodically to make sure they will operate properly in case of a flood.

Tuesday's test was the first time both spillways had been open at the same time since the dam was expanded in 1996. At the peak of the hourlong test, about 100,000 gallons a second poured through 3-foot openings in the spillways.

Among a small crowd of onlookers, Emily Helms of nearby Tonto Basin took pictures during the test. Her husband, Larry Helms, was part of the 1996 expansion project, which made the century-old structure safer in case of flooding.

The water was captured in downstream reservoirs, starting with Apache Lake, and will flow into the canals that deliver water across the Valley.

Here's a video from September 2010 showing the release of water from one spillway.

ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability Expands Through Partnership with Tecnológico de Monterrey

October 6, 2011

In an effort to further advance the transition to a sustainable economy in Mexico, Arizona State University (ASU) and Tecnológico de Monterrey have jointly launched the Latin America Office of the Global Institute of Sustainability. This extension of ASU’s Global Institute at Tecnológico de Monterrey will conduct applied transdisciplinary research, offer an innovative curriculum, and develop business solutions that accelerate the adoption of a sustainable culture.

The Latin America Office of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability will offer academic programs to educate future leaders in the transition to a green economy. It will conduct applied research to address Latin American issues, particularly the adoption of sustainable development. It will also leverage linkages with the Technology Park at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City Campus, to promote clean technologies and entrepreneurial projects that will create green jobs and businesses, and promote public policies that preserve natural capital through active participation of all sectors of society.

Tecnológico de Monterrey

Tecnológico de Monterrey is the largest private not-for-profit university in Mexico and Latin America. It is a higher education institution focused on educating students to become responsible citizens who will trigger the development of their communities by fostering humanistic values, an international perspective, and an entrepreneurial culture. Tecnológico de Monterrey is present throughout Mexico with 31 campuses.

"This partnership with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability is an ambitious and avant-garde joint initiative that seeks to fulfill the 2012 mission of the Tecnológico de Monterrey," said Arturo Molina, president of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City Metropolitan Region.

"This new extension office of the Global Institute of Sustainability will be a catalyst by creating synergies among the several sustainability initiatives currently underway at Tecnológico de Monterrey," said Rick Shangraw, director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. "It is a unique, highly-collaborative model that is garnering great interest by companies, government, and environmental organizations in Mexico and Latin America that are committed to sustainable development."

The joint venture will train a new generation of entrepreneurs to create businesses that combine a rational use of natural resources with environmental stewardship. This aligns with the entrepreneurial culture of both Tecnológico de Monterrey and ASU.

"The new Latin America Office of ASU’s Global Institute is unique in Latin America—a global think tank that will promote business solutions, clean technologies, and governance models for business and government decision makers," said Isabel Studer, the founding director of the new office. "It has the support of Arizona State University, one of the leading research institutes in sustainable development in the Americas."

The inauguration event included four discussion panels with public officials, business leaders, NGO representatives, and sustainability scholars and faculty members from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City Campus, where the Latin America Office of the Global Institute of Sustainability is located.

DCDC and the 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, 13 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 corporate CEO to discuss extensions of the current project.

About the Latin America Office of the Global Institute of Sustainability

About Tecnológico de Monterrey

About Arizona State University

About the Global Institute of Sustainability

Media Contacts:

Karen Leland, Director, Communications

Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

United States of America


Monica Camacho Lizarraga, Director, International Liaison Office

Tecnológico de Monterrey

Mexico City, Mexico


IHDP: Social scientists call for more research on human dimensions of global change

October 5, 2011


Scientists across all disciplines share great concern that our planet is in the process of crossing dangerous biophysical tipping points. The results of a new large-scale global survey among 1,276 scholars from the social sciences and humanities demonstrate that the human dimensions of the problem are equally important but severely under-addressed.

The survey, conducted by the IHDP Secretariat (UNU-IHDP) in collaboration with UNESCO and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), identifies the following as highest priority research areas:

(1) equity/equality and wealth/resource distribution;

(2) policy, political systems/governance, and political economy;

(3) economic systems, economic costs and incentives;

(4) globalization, social and cultural transitions.

Over 80% call for additional funding and opportunities for such research. 90% of the survey respondents are in favor of an assessment of social sciences and humanities research findings applicable to global environmental change.

Visit the IHDP website to view the full survey.

Upcoming Climate and Energy Webcasts for State and Local Governments

September 30, 2011

For the month of October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering climate and energy webcasts from the EPA, the Department of Energy (DOE) and others. All webcasts are offered free of charge, but space may be limited.

EPA Webcasts


DOE Webcasts

NOAA Webcasts

Water Consumption: How Low Can You Go?

September 29, 2011

David Sampson, PhD will challenge the audience with questions regarding the amount of water we use for everyday activities and discuss the tradeoffs in water-reduction management, as well as compare conservation measures to traditional and new approaches to demand management. The Sustainability Presentation will be held on September 30, 2011 from 12:00-1:30pm in Wrigley Hall 481.

David is a research scientist and systems modeler working on DCDC's signature water simulation model, WaterSim. This model has been implemented for the Central Arizona region and used primarily in four ways: (1) Understand the dynamic nature of managing a complex water supply and demand system for urban regions; (2) Explore the effectiveness of various water management policies; (3) 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; (4) Explore how people make decisions for highly complex problems that are subject to high uncertainty.

This event is part of ASU's "No Impact Week," a week-long series of events and experiments in low-carbon living and is co-sponsored with ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability.

EPA Excessive Heat Events Guidebook

September 28, 2011

In June 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency produced the Excessive Heat Events Guidebook, with assistance from federal, state, local and academic partners.

Designed to help community officials, emergency managers, meteorologists, and others plan for and respond to excessive heat events, the guidebook highlights best practices that have been employed to save lives during excessive heat events in different urban areas and provides a menu of options that officials can use to respond to these events in their communities.

The Guidebook was developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Municipal officials in both the U.S. and Canada provided useful information that can be used to help the public cope with excessive heat.