American Water Charitable Foundation and NRPA Award $500,000 for Water-Inspired Play Spaces

(August 24, 2021)

Grantees include Imperial Beach, California, and Lexington, Kentucky

The American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) is excited to announce the recipients of their 2021 Building Better Communities grant program:

  • City of Imperial Beach, California
  • City of Lexington, Kentucky

The grants, which total $500,000, will be used to create equitable community-focused, water-inspired play areas that feature modern, state-of-the-art splashpads to teach children and families the importance of water stewardship and conservation. This is the eighth year of the grant program, which is funded by the AWCF and administered by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).  

“We are pleased to partner with the cities of Imperial Beach and Lexington to provide equitable and accessible water-based play spaces so children and families can learn, interact and appreciate water, a critical natural resource, in a fun and engaging way,” said Carrie Williams, president, American Water Charitable Foundation. “Through our work, we have found that splash pads are a wonderful way to ensure water access for all, while supporting our conservation focus and engaging community members in environmental education.”

The City of Imperial Beach, a community that sits along the border between the United States and Mexico, has suffered from a long history of severe pollution impacts from the Tijuana River, affecting beach water quality, and limiting access to water-based recreation. The city will use the $250,000 grant to construct an all-inclusive splashpad at Veteran’s Park, providing the community with a free, family-friendly water play experience. Designed to accommodate people with mobility issues and other disabilities, the splash pad demonstrates the city’s commitment to water stewardship through a variety of sustainability elements, including a recirculation system to conserve water. In addition, the city will host a variety of educational workshops at the park that focus on water quality and environmental conservation.

The City of Lexington also will use their $250,000 grant to create an all-inclusive splash pad and water play experience. Located in historic Charles Young Park, an area located within a prominent African American community, the splash pad will predominantly serve people from the east end of the city who lack access to water- and nature-based play.

To ensure everyone has access to these types of amenities, the splash pad, designed to accommodate people with mobility issues and other disabilities, will be the first free water play experience for this part of the city. Using a distinct nature-inspired design, the project, which is part of the city’s larger green linear trail, Town Branch Commons, will connect the community to nature and the outdoors. In addition, the splash pad will encourage water stewardship through educational signage and conservation programs highlighting the splash pad features. 

“Ensuring children and families can experience water and have access to water-based education and nature play spaces is key to building the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Kellie May, NRPA vice president, programs and partnerships. “We are proud to support this important work through our partnership with the American Water Charitable Foundation and encourage communities everywhere to explore the wonders of nature through their local parks and recreation.”

The Building Better Communities initiative, now in its eighth year, helps communities create or enhance public park spaces or programs that encourage the community to engage in water and nature-inspired play, connect to the natural world and focus on environmental education and water-based recreation. The grants, which total $3.3 million, help American Water communities in 12 states — California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — engage children and families in areas surrounding the chosen parks.  

For more information about the Building Better Communities grant program, visit


About American Water
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to 15 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to help make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About the American Water Charitable Foundation
Established in 2010 with a founding contribution from American Water, the American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors. More information can be found online at

About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit