DCDC is organized around water and other environmental resource decisions in a complex, dynamic urban system. The DCDC research plan is conceptualized in terms of a decision process that links interdis­ciplinary research projects in a broader effort to inform urban decision makers about the evolving challenges of coping with a changing climate.

DCDC’s conceptual approach is illustrated in the diagram: the uncertainties of climate change affect individual and societal alternatives (adapta­tion decisions), but function through an urban system with economic feedbacks and distributional (social and spatial) conse­quences.

Points of focus for our inter­disciplinary research agenda are: 1) climatic uncertainties, 2) outcomes (economic feedbacks, urban system dynamics, and distribution effects), and 3) adaptation decisions. Activities cutting across these themes are simulation modeling and boundary studies.

Center research advances fundamental knowledge within disciplines while also striving for integration, synthesis and transformational new transdisciplinary knowledge.

Climatic Uncertainties

Prior DCDC research identified and addressed the major Climatic Uncertainties facing Phoenix, including inter-annual drought, climate change, and the urban heat island and explored the sensitivity of urban water demand to variations in climate. DCDC I research also documented the increasing uncertainties associated with climate model results. In DCDC II, we are refining climate and hydrological models to represent the physical characteristics and hydraulic dynamics of our watersheds. We will determine the key areas that generate our water supply (what happens if land use/cover changes), the importance of precipitation intensity (what happens to extremes under future climate change), the importance of snow versus rain (what happens to precipitation types under future climate change and what are the impacts on water supply), and the potential effects of changing land-use conditions with wildfires, urban development, and agricultural policies.

Adaptation Decisions

Adaptation decisions involve choices at the individual and societal levels in response to climatic uncertainties. These often uncoordinated adaptations of individuals aggregate into changes in social, economic, and environmental conditions that prompt institutional responses that can function to the detriment of regional adaptation. DCDC II will advance fundamental knowledge about adaptation decisions under uncertainty from three perspectives: decision analysis, decision processes, and institutional roles in decision making.Adaptation decisions affect urban systems by making them more or less resilient, distributing risk, and altering the trajectory of the economy. Adaptation decisions thus can be studied in terms of their impacts on economic feedbacks and urban-systems and the spatial distribution of the effects.


Adaptation decisions have outcomes in terms of economic feedbacks, urban-system impacts and distributional effects.

Cross-cutting Themes

Cutting across DCDC’s study of societal alternatives, outcomes, and uncertainties are boundary studies and simulation modeling.