By  on November 9, 2007

LOS ANGELES — After having perfected their ambience, treatments and retail offerings, spas are now turning to a fundamental of the industry: water.

A growing clutch of high-end spas across the country are realizing that if they want to offer the purest and finest of everything to their clients, that has to extend to the quality of the water used in showers, Jacuzzis and hydrotherapy treatments.

"It's really about responding to consumers," said Jennifer Lynn, spa director of Qua Baths & Spa at the Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. "Of all the industries out there, the spa industry is very conscientious. We're looking out for the health and well-being of the consumer, and in order to do that we have to look at the health and well-being of our own business, including responding to water, and being a little more green and eco-conscious in the way we conduct business."

Spa managers are taking a two-pronged approach: One is to consider fitting showerheads with filters designed to neutralize the chlorine or bromine the water is treated with; secondly, they are considering revamping their systems so that hydrotherapy treatments, which involve immersion, use water that is as pure and nonchlorinated as possible.

Denise Vitiello, spa director of the Mandarin Oriental in New York, says she is considering some options for the personal shower rooms, vitality pools, amethyst crystal steam rooms and 'experience' showers in the luxury space. The facility recently launched its $300,000 Thai Yoga Suite, which includes a custom-made tub from Dallas-based Sanijet, where the water is purified with natural herbs and aromatherapy oils without any extra chlorine added.

"We really do walk the walk in recognizing that it has to be a truly results-oriented bathing experience," said Vitiello.

Next on her agenda is to look at various options to dechlorinate the water in showers.

"We are trying it out slowly," she said, conceding that chlorine can negate the therapeutic effects of the treatments. "But there is emphasis out there in the industry where people are more sensitive to what's happening with their water."

David Fowler, president and chief executive of Wellness Enterprises Inc. of Gainesville, Fla., a company that makes high-end shower and drinking water filters, agreed that the spa industry was waking up to the prospect of offering a higher quality of water."We want to change the way water is used in the spas," said Fowler. "We want to eliminate any health hazard to the hair and skin that may be present in existing water systems."

His Wellness Shower is designed to reduce the amount of chlorine in water and infuses it with volcanic minerals. As a result, the hair and skin is softer while the shower remains clean and sanitized. The product has been available to the public, retailing for $249, on the company's Web site and through distributors. But it has now come to the attention of spa directors, as well.

"We are in final discussions with top-name spas in the country, and all of them have given us a strong reception," said Fowler. "Each one wants to do the same thing: put a dozen or so filters in the facility, test them out and then start selling them in their retail areas."

Eventually, the emphasis will shift to tub-based treatments as well.

"Health through water is what spa means," said Philip Klement, vice president of sales and marketing at Sanijet. "When it comes to the use of baths, there are incredible treatments that have been designed for the healing use of water. But the vessels that are being used are not providing a good or safe foundation on which to build these treatments."

His company is working on a technology that strips the chemicals out of water to purify it, but using a high-volume setting that's necessary for the many gallons needed for a hydrotherapy treatment. He said it would essentially require the insertion of a filtering device in the water supply line. Klement anticipates having the technology ready by 2008.

"When the idea is presented to spa directors, it's almost like an epiphany," he said. "It makes all the sense in the world. They know that chlorine is not a good thing for the skin, and that putting chlorinated water back on top of a newly exfoliated body doesn't make sense. Spa clients use pure and expensive essential oils poured into a tub with 80 gallons of chlorinated water which dilutes and neutralizes the effectiveness of the oils. Water filtration will be a transforming trend in bathing."

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