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Summary of State Agency Action

The Colorado Climate Plan, updated in 2018, includes approximately 52 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation. These goals address impacts in the following sectors: agriculture, biodiversity, forestry, infrastructure, public health, and water. This page describes some of the progress Colorado state agencies are making related to goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

Colorado’s agricultural goals include promoting and researching efficient irrigation systems, soil health, and land management practices to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to decrease production losses due to a lack of water; and partnering with research institutions and federal agencies to support producers’ efforts to adapt to climate change.

To implement these goals, the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) created two grant programs to make farming more resilient to climate change. One grant is for farmers to develop agricultural hydropower systems that use flowing irrigation water to generate electricity that can be used on the farm while making agricultural water practices more sustainable in the face of a changing climate. The other grant program, created out of anticipation of changing precipitation patterns and soil chemistry, supports research of specialty crops (e.g., fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, and nursery crops) and their effects on soil health and human nutrition. These grants are funded by CDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and several other Colorado state agencies.

In November 2016, the Interbasin Compact Committee of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a government entity that addresses statewide water issues, and the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, a nonprofit that represents agricultural leaders in the state, held an Ag Water Summit. The summit focused on identifying concrete ways to achieve the agriculture-related objectives in Colorado’s Water Plan (CWP), including those objectives related to climate change. The CWP, developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, discusses how the state’s projected future water needs will be affected by growth and climate change and lays out strategies for proactively addressing these challenges, including water conservation and storage options.

Biodiversity

The goals in Colorado’s 2018 Plan related to biodiversity include recommendations to model the projected distribution of species and habitats; and to better understand and protect the health of fish and wildlife in response to the impacts of climate change, particularly risks from increased frequency and severity of wildfires.

In implementing these goals, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with help from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and U.S. Department of the Interior’s North Central Climate Science Center, revised the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) in 2015. The plan outlines a 10-year vision for managing Colorado’s fish, wildlife, and habitats. The revised SWAP includes a new vulnerability assessment to identify the degree of climate change impacts on thirteen wildlife habitats across the state.

Forestry

Forestry goals in Colorado’s 2018 Plan recommend providing homeowners who live in wildfire risk areas with funding and technical support to reduce those wildfire risks and encourage safer and more efficient forest management practices, such as promoting tree species diversity; helping forests regenerate after fires; and implementing forest restoration projects.

To implement these goals, the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) began addressing forest watershed health concerns in 2017 following the passage of the 2016 Colorado House Bill 16-1255. This bill provided state funding for cross-boundary forest projects and called for CSFS to conduct forest and watershed analyses and reinstate a CSFS-led Forest Health Advisory Council, to advise the State Forester. Additionally, CSFS developed the 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests. The report details many actions CSFS has taken to assist Colorado communities adapt to increasing frequency and severity of wildfires due to climate change.

Infrastructure

Goals in Colorado’s 2018 Plan related to infrastructure include improving roadways and adapting airport infrastructure to be more resilient to climate change impacts. Additionally, the Plan includes goals to support improvements to the state’s water infrastructure, such as increasing the size of reservoirs to conserve fluctuating water supplies in response to increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns.

To implement the transportation-related goals, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) developed the 2040 Statewide Transportation Plan in 2015, which put a strong emphasis on improving the sustainability and resiliency of the state’s transportation system in the face of climate change and extreme weather events. In the wake of a 2013 flood event that devastated roadways, CDOT implemented the 1-70 Risk and Resilience Pilot project in August 2016 to address climate change vulnerabilities to Colorado’s highway infrastructure. Through the pilot project, the state proactively analyzed the vulnerability of 450 miles of I-70 to future damages and closures from physical threats, such as avalanches, increased flooding, and wildfires. For each risk it identified, the state calculated the annual cost to the state and to travelers. These estimates will inform its decisions as it evaluates new, more resilient designs and transportation routes away from hazard areas.

With regard to water infrastructure, in 2016, Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 16-200,  which created a position in the governor’s office to oversee how the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) coordinates and permits water supply infrastructure projects. As a result, the governor's office and CWCB have increased the size of several reservoirs to make the state’s water supply more resilient, and have over a dozen water supply infrastructure projects planned that are intended to help the state better withstand climate-induced changes to available water supplies.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

The 2018 Plan identifies several public health goals including educating the public about potential health hazards; and continuing to assess the relationship between climate change and certain illnesses and diseases, such as vector-borne diseases, heat-related illnesses, and algal blooms.

While the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not yet provide many resources directly about health risks affected by climate change, CDPHE offers some overlapping technical support in this area. For instance, CDPHE annually releases data on air quality, water quality, and various health topics (e.g., vector-borne diseases, heat-related illnesses), and also provides users with a Colorado public health indicator tool and a heat-related illness tool that provides information about climate change-related health risks, such as heat waves.

 

Water

Colorado’s water goals are aimed at increasing climate resilience within this sector. Some of the goals include promoting water efficiency and conservation; supporting water-sharing agreements; working with regulators, utilities, and federal agencies to factor climate change impacts into regulations; and strengthening water resilience in local communities.

To implement these statewide goals, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) created the Colorado Water Plan in 2015. The plan sets objectives, goals, and actions regarding the state’s projected future water needs and describes how the state’s progress in this area will be measured. In implementing the 2015 Water Plan, the Colorado State Legislature in 2016 passed HB 16-1005, revising the state’s water laws and legalizing rain water barrel collection. In 2017, CWCB released a report, Ripple Effects, to showcase many collaborative and innovative efforts that are being implemented as called for by the 2015 plan. For example, CWCB is working across state agencies to increase resilience to extreme events and variability as a result of climate change. This interagency collaboration has resulted in CWCB and the Colorado Department of Transportation working together to integrate climate change adaptation into long-term planning. Additionally, CWCB has collaborated with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to work with utilities, federal agencies, and others to identify regulatory barriers to water and health preparedness and adaptation efforts. The CWCB also serves on and leads a number of workgroups focused on climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. 


(Research last updated: June 25, 2018).

 
 
 
 

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