Colorado Climate Preparedness Project: Final Report

The Colorado Climate Preparedness Project (CCPP) was initiated to to assist Colorado in preparing for climate change by providing a catalog of climate vulnerabilities and current adaptation activities in the state. The report catalogues impacts, adaptation activities, and adaptation options across a range of sectors: water; wildlife, ecosystems and forests; electricity; agriculture; and outdoor activities. The team used existing studies of climate impacts and interviewed experts in the field.  One of the key recommendations of the report was the need for a more complete vulnerability assessment for the state looking at a range of plausible climate change scenarios for the state. 

The CCPP deliverables include a publicly searchable database and this report - summarizing current and planned climate adaptation efforts being undertaken by state agencies, their federal counterparts, nonprofit organizations, and private industry as part of planning and policymaking activities. The database, located at, is a catalog of resources relevant to state-level adaptation planning efforts.

This final report builds on the information included in the database, as well as key documents and information obtained through a series of 22 structured interviews with representatives from each sector, including the state agencies with regulatory and/or policymaking authority over their respective sectors. The report first provides an overall introduction to the CCPP and a broad historical overview of the state's adaptation activities.  A chapter is dedicated to each of the five sectors, with a thorough review of the specific impacts and potential vulnerabilities within that sector, the related ongoing and planned adaptation activities in the state, as well as the barriers and information gaps impending adaptation. Cross-sectoral impacts are summarized independently also.

Key findings for each sector covered in the report included the following:

  • Water - the most serious anticipated climate change impact is changes in the timing and intensity of streamflows and runoff and reductions in later-summer flows, increased drought, and declines in snowpack.  
  • Wildlife, ecosystems, and forests - anticipated impacts include greater prevalence of pests and wildfires; changes in the hydrologic cycle with effects on impact and aquatic organisms; and changes in streamflow and stream and lake temperatures.
  • Electricity - climate change challenges include changes in peak demands for summertime cooling; changes in water supplies needed to support water cooling needs for electricity generation; and needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the sector.  Other areas of concern is the need for siting of new transmission lines to bring renewable power sources online.
  • Agriculture - challenges include changes in water supply and greater exposure to extreme weather, such as extreme heat (and associated pests and pathogens), cold, winter storms, frost, hail, and flooding; however, the report notes that the agricultural sector could benefit from climate change as a result of warmer conditions and longer growing seasons. Barriers to adaptation in the agricultural sector include transition costs, increasing competition for water supply, and uncertainty.  
  • Outdoor recreation - this sector includes hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, outdoor sports (such as the ski industry). Climate risk to this sector include drought, insect infestation, wildfire, harm to aquatic species and wildlife, declining snowpack, changes in streamflow.

In each sector, the report identifies gaps in understanding about the climate change implications and adaptation options for each sector. Generally, the report calls for greater coordination between the state agencies and programs with control over and management responsibilities for each sector. In assessing the impacts to each sector, the study relies on studies from the IPCC and the USGCRP and National Climate Assessment.  

The report also includes case studies for adaptation planning activities in Maryland, California and Alaska and provides guidance for Colorado for future adaptation planning efforts initiated by the state.  

Recommendations for further planning are synthesized in the final chapter, and a condensed version of these recommendations is offered in the Executive Summary. The appendix includes the interview questions, a user guide for the database, and additional climate resources.

The CCPP was initiated by Governor Ritter and was guided by a team of representatives from the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Governor’s Office, Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). The project was carried out by the CU-NOAA Western Water Assessment.




Publication Date: 2011

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  • Adaptation plan
  • Assessment

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