CONCORD (AP) — A $250,000 federal grant aims to protect the Merrimack River, which provides drinking water to over 600,000 people.

The grant will protect the river from climate change, pollution and development pressures in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, NHPR reported.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Merrimack River watershed is one of the most threatened in the country due to forest loss and increasing water quality risks.

The grant from the Forest Service’s Landscape Scale Restoration Program will help create a model for riverbank buffer strips made of native plant species, officials said.

Matt Thorne, president of the Merrimack River Watershed Council, said developments are decreasing the riverbank vegetation that’s needed to filter pollutants from stormwater runoff and absorb flooding.

“Having more vegetation can reduce the flashiness of our waterways and minimize flooding,” he said. “On the flipside … in times of drought, they will keep more moisture locally, and help protect some of these water bodies from heating up as much and from losing and evaporating as much water.”

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