Project Details


DMUU: DCDC III: Transformational Solutions for Urban Water Sustainability Transit DMUU: DCDC III: Transformational Solutions for Urban Water Sustainability Transitions in the Colorado River Basin As the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University (ASU) enters its second decade of use-inspired sustainability science, an interdisciplinary team of social, behavioral, economic, and sustainability scientists has advanced basic understanding of environmental decision making for water sustainability and urban climate-change adaptation under scientific and societal uncertainties. This renewal proposal for the final phase of NSF-DMUU funding builds upon and re-theorizes the conceptual framework of DCDC. The guiding research question will be: Given environmental and societal uncertainties, how can cities dependent on the Colorado River Basin (CRB) develop transformational solutions to implement water sustainability transitions? Expanding the place-based case study of Phoenix, researchers will examine this question in the context of cities dependent upon the CRBPhoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas. The research program is comprised of four Integrated Project Areas (IPAs): Regional climate and land-use changes as biophysical drivers that affect decision making Actors, institutions, and governance as socioeconomic drivers that affect decision making Simulation modeling, visual analytics, and scenarios for knowledge integration and exchange Evidence-supported transition strategies toward sustainable water governance Intellectual Merit This project will generate the analytical framework and empirical results necessary to theorize environmental decision making under uncertainty for urban water systems. Transformational solutions to inform sustainability transitions in CRB cities facing climate change and other long-term environmental risks will be identified and tested. This goal will be accomplished through use-inspired sustainability science constituting an innovative combination of regional climate and land use modeling; social, economic, and institutional analysis; simulation modeling, visual analytics, and scenario analysis; and development and testing evidence-supported transition strategies. This approach enables DCDC to: 1) evaluate how urban water system decisions are affected by climate and land use changes conditioned by and interacting with social, institutional, and economic processes; 2) model, simulate, visualize, and explore alternative futures in complex social-ecological-technical systems; and 3) conduct comparative studies to develop scientific knowledge with explicit consideration of specific contextual factors and generalizable patterns. The project is also distinctive in that it has the capacity to visualize the integrated biophysical, social, and institutional analyses through the Decision Theater Network locations in Tempe, AZ and Washington, DC. These immersive and collaborative laboratories provide a unique setting for decision research, stakeholder and policy-maker engagements. Broader Impacts This project advances policy-relevant and use-inspired sustainability science, designed to illuminate pathways and to overcome social, institutional, and economic constraints to transitions. Solutions developed and tested through DCDC III have the potential to alter how water is regulated, planned, managed, coordinated, and monitored in the CRB. These governance changes will enable novel practices of extracting, distributing, using, and recharging water to generate equitable social and economic benefits without compromising the supporting hydro-ecosystems. This project builds upon DCDCs successful model of knowledge and action co-production, in which research, education, and stakeholder engagement activities reinforce one another and explicitly link science to societal impacts. DCDC III will build and strengthen knowledge-action-networks that enhance knowledge use and exchange and foster social learning. A new generation of scholars will be educated and trained, with a focus on key competencies in sustainability through real-world sustainability research and education experiences. WaterSim: Understanding the Most Valuable Resource in the Desert NSF will be a partner in the 4th USA Science and Engineering Festival the nations largest celebration of science and engineering in the United States. The goal of the festival is to re-invigorate the interest of the nations youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by presenting a compelling, educational and entertaining festival. The exhibit will demonstrate a mobile application of the DCDC WaterSim model, which is used to investigate how alternative climate conditions, rates of population growth, and policy choices interact to affect future water supply and demand conditions in central Arizona. Students, teachers, and members of the public will use WaterSim to explore alternative scenarios and discuss the interactions and tradeoffs among environmental services, social equity, and economic well-being. Participants explore future scenarios by setting conditions for water supply, climate change impacts and water demand, selecting policy options, and running the model in real-time. The results are visualized on an array of five monitors with interactive dashboards. The demonstration illustrates the potential of models such as WaterSim that enable scientists, policymakers, students, and the public and to anticipate future sustainability challenges and develop collaborative solutions.
Effective start/end date9/1/158/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $4,513,062.00


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