In October 2012, County Commissioners adopted the Boulder County Climate Change Preparedness Plan (C2P2) to help local residents and communities prepare for changing environmental conditions. The plan, developed with the help of Stratus Consulting of Boulder, focuses on several key sectors: water supply, emergency management, public health, and agriculture and natural resources. The plan identifies the predicted impacts of climate change, explores the implications of these changes in the context of resource management institutions, and outlines opportunities for adaptation planning efforts.

The Climate Change Preparedness Plan analyzed a variety of current Boulder County and regional plans and used the latest local climate science to identify potential preparedness gaps. By building on the efforts that have been completed and are in progress, Boulder County is increasing interdepartmental connectivity and building a framework for cohesive action among departments.

Before the plan was developed, Boulder County staff looked to other successful communities for guidance. After reviewing plans from San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago and many other communities, staff realized the county’s unique geography would require a new planning model. To recruit consultants able to balance the desired mix of science, analysis and communication skills, Boulder County released a Request for Proposals.

The chosen consultants provided the scientific expertise to downscale global climate models to the Boulder County region. Chapter two of the C2P2 provides a state-of-the-science overview of projected climate change along the Colorado Front Range and Boulder County in particular.

Although there is still significant uncertainty about the magnitude of various potential future changes in the climate system, especially due to the diverse landscapes and habitats ranging from the high-elevation prairie to the Continental Divide, planners can benefit from an understanding of what is and what is not known about how increased GHG emissions could affect the climate in this region and how those changes in climate can impact human and natural systems.

With a good foundation in science, Boulder County built a plan that employs “no regrets” decisions to support climate actions with positive co-benefits to the community including coordinated water resource management, stronger wildfire protection goals, and heat emergency planning.

County planners were fortunate to have the support of the County Commissioners as the planning process moved forward. Boulder County conducted a broad outreach effort beginning a year prior to the completion of the C2P2 to encourage input from different perspectives. Because a variety of viewpoints were represented at public meetings, the planning team was able to address concerns that included the fear of eminent domain being used to secure water rights and doubt that the planning process was a county-led effort.

Instead of bulldozing through the opposition, the planning team worked with concerned factions to assuage their fears and utilize the input received during these meetings. In the appendix of the plan, comments and responses were recorded, including the feedback collected through surveys, emails, and public meetings. Staff responses accompany the community comments in the C2P2’s appendix.

In addition to direction and thoughtful, thorough planning recommendations, the adoption of the Climate Change Preparedness Plan lends something important to Boulder County’s planning process: accountability.

The plan has sparked other stakeholders, like the local Green Building Guild, to initiate a plan for the built environment. In addition, the City of Boulder has included climate change science in the update to the city’s Emergency Preparedness Plan. Boulder County is now in the process of prioritizing the recommendations and creating a budget.

As this plan is implemented, please check back for future developments.


Case Study Resources

Boulder County Climate Change Preparedness Plan



Boulder County Climate Change Preparedness – website

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Resilient Communities and Watersheds



  • Challenges:
  • drought
  • watersupply
  • wildfire
  • waterquality
  • urbanheat
  • flooding
  • publichealth
  • regionalcollab
  • fiscalhealth
  • energy
  • State:
  • colorado
  • Scale:
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  • Type:
  • urban, suburban, rural