Water Really Is Good for You: The Health and Wellness Benefits of Water Features in a Post-COVID World

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“Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.” – Slovakian Proverb

In 2020, the world met COVID-19 and individuals came to value health and wellness like never before.

Because of this, staying safe and healthy is now the focus in the built environment as well. As we enter 2021, we are beginning to reimagine real estate in a post-COVID world. What will it look like, and how will property amenities change to address our new focus on health and wellness?

Here at OTL, we are aware of the many ways that simply being around water benefits humans’ health and wellness. We are always thinking about how the water features we create enhance their settings and elevate people’s experiences. Throughout the pandemic, we worked to deliver our projects in a manner that keeps our team members, development partners, clients, and their tenants safe and healthy. And, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, we are noticing the following reasons why water features are playing an increasingly important role in promoting health and wellness in the built environment:

  1. Water features make people happy. 

According to USA Today, water has the “power to inspire relaxation and promote personal rejuvenation.” The bestselling book Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do, by marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, focuses on the proven scientific evidence that being close to bodies of water promotes mental health and happiness.

Following this premise, water features serve to raise levels of happiness among tenants, management staff, and visitors to the sites where these amenities are located. Imagine how a beautifully designed and crafted water feature, like the custom glass chandeliers, cylindrical rain curtains and waterwalls that OTL constructed at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California, can boost the mood of guests and staff members and make them want to return time and again.

  1. Water features remind us of our earliest life experiences.

Author and certified energy therapist Carol Tuttle says the sounds we heard in our mother’s womb are replicated by the sounds water makes. The rhythmic noises of water make us feel safe and protected, reminding us of what we experienced in utero.

Similarly, we become calm and relaxed when we hear the movement of a water feature’s waves, eddies, and ripples. These sounds soothe us and remove us from the stresses of everyday life, which further promotes health and wellness.

This effect is the reason why water features are so welcome in places like office buildings and shopping centers, where hustle and bustle are common and life can become stressful. For example, OTL incorporated water into the bases of four historic Robert Graham sculptures at Graham Garden at the Wells Fargo Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and the trickling sounds and shimmering reflections relax and calm everyone who visits the property.

  1. Water features produce a physical response that is healthy.

The positive effects of water on human health are more than mental and emotional—they’re physical, too.

According to Michael Depledge, chair of Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, spending time near water slows down our heart rate and reduces stress hormones. It also promotes physical activity and general fitness, which decreases the incidence of diabetes and other diseases associated with obesity.

The physical benefits of water are one of the reasons why residential projects are incorporating water features into their designs. For example, OTL recently completed work on a series of natural streams and cascades alongside a nature trail at The Lakes, a luxury residential neighborhood in San Diego, California. The project delivers a relaxing oasis far removed from the stresses and sounds of civilization and encourages residents to take long meandering walks among the property’s sun-dappled paths.

  1. Water features spark a newly discovered beneficial psychological reaction.

Whether it’s called “blue health,” “blue mind,” or “blue space,” this phenomenon refers to the state of psychological relaxation caused by being around water. Research has shown that the benefits of green space to human health also apply to blue space. In fact, when combined, green space and blue space provide the perfect environment for optimal human mental health.

When applied to water features, it’s clear how installing a stunning fountain in a public park or urban gathering space can promote health and wellness among residents and visitors to the area. The 1960s-era fountain OTL reconstructed with Raymond Group at Grand Park in Los Angeles, California, is an excellent example of how “blue mind” can be sparked outdoors, even in the middle of a busy city.

Health and wellness will be a rising focal point for developers as we plan for a post-COVID world, and water-based amenities will play a major role in their projects going forward. As they increasingly recognize water features’ ability to make people happy, take us back to the womb, improve our physical health, and place us in a positive “blue mind” mentality, real estate stakeholders will continue to seek out these amenities to enhance their assets’ health-boosting features well into the future.