Free Purified Drinking Water in Todos Santos

Free Purified Drinking Water in Todos Santos

It was July 2019 and the Desplastifícate movement to rid our communities of single-use plastic was going gang busters. All 6 schools in El Pescadero and 6 of the 10 schools in Todos Santos had completely eliminated single-use plastics and Styrofoam. 130 local businesses, including the great majority of our community’s hotels and restaurants, had committed to the Desplastifícate program. Most had eliminated plastic straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam, earning them 2 turtles on the Desplastifícate 5-Turtle rating system for local businesses. But for many of these businesses, getting to the 3-Turtle rating was proving a significant challenge. To earn that rating they had to rid their establishments of single-use plastic water bottles, and they anticipated heavy resistance from their tourist-heavy clientele if they did so. After all, everyone knows you shouldn’t drink the water in Mexico. 

But Barbara Manfrediz had a plan. Barbara is the owner and operator of Water Ways Baja, a local company that designs and sells water purification systems based on the water and using technology developed with NASA.  It is the only company in Mexico with a Water Quality Association Business Excellence distinction.  At a ceremony to award local businesses their turtle rating certificates, Barbara did something which simultaneously broke down the 3-Turtle barrier and restored everyone’s faith in humanity – she offered to install point-of-use water filtration systems at any business that wanted one, asking only that they commit to never using single-use plastic water bottles again, and provide her with in-kind services that help defray her costs for the professional maintenance of the system.  It was a total game changer for the entire community.

Then Covid hit and the world lost years of progress in the battle against single-use plastics; Todos Santos and El Pescadero were no exception. The Zero Waste Alliance’s Mexican fiscal sponsor, Ponguinguiola, had been instrumental in getting a law passed in 2019 that banned single-use plastics in Baja California Sur, but the law lay dormant and unenforced while Covid raged. 

But some took the downtime created by Covid to prepare for a cleaner future. Richie Friend of Ricardo Amigo Real Estate (RARE) bought the property that is now Plaza Amigos, and, as part of the renovation of the space, Barbara installed a free water purification system that serves all the businesses of the plaza, all of which shun single-use plastics. Jenny Sutton – a retired investment banker – had recently finished building her dream house in Todos Santos and had joined the volunteer management team of the Zero Waste Alliance/Alianza Cero Basura. “Once I said yes to working with the Zero Waste Alliance, I went straight home and got my own house in order” recalls Jenny.  “I became obsessed with being a good example, so in short order my housemates and I had Barbara install a water purification system in our house so that we no longer needed to use garafons or any type of plastic related to water; we bought a soda streamer so that we did not need to buy Topo Chico, which is very hard to find in the glass bottles; we opened an account at A Granel refill store to further eliminate packaging waste; and we got a second bin for recyclables to be sent to Punto Verde, our local recycling center. Just by taking these relatively simple steps we were to get our household waste down to only 30% of what it had been three months prior.”

Jenny Sutton (Alianza Cero Basura), Marina Garnica (Plaza Amigos) and Barbara Manfrediz (Water Ways Baja) at the water bottle refill station at Plaza Amigos

Jenny had found that single-use plastic water bottles constituted the bulk of the waste generated by her household. Focused on this fact, she began studying the programs of other communities grappling with plastic waste and learned about the public water bottle refilling stations that dot cities like Tulum. While local businesses A Granel and Mini Super Munchies have long had a dedicated faucet linked to one of Barbara’s water filtration systems that customers can use to refill their water bottles, there was not a dedicated system available to the wider public and easily accessible by tourists in the community. Jenny made it her mission to change that. She contacted Barbara and the manager of Plaza Amigos, Marina Garnica, and they all agreed that a dedicated, public water bottle refilling station at Plaza Amigos was something that needed to happen. Notes Marina, “Richie, the owner of Plaza Amigos and RARE, has been a long-time supporter of Desplastifícate and the Zero Waste Alliance. RARE is the largest real estate company by sales in the area with hundreds of people coming through the office each year, and Plaza Amigos is in the heart of the tourism district in town. Richie sees the public water bottle refill station as a great way to educate both tourists and potential new residents about our community’s commitment to reducing single-use plastics.” The Plaza Amigos Water Bottle Refilling Station was officially launched on March 10, 2022. 

Marina Garnica (Plaza Amigos) and Barbara Manfrediz (Water Ways Baja) at the water bottle refill station launch event

Barbara and Jenny are thrilled. “I am contacted all the time by people who have enjoyed using the water refill station at Plaza Amigos” notes Barbara. “I am so thrilled that people are now really gaining access to our spectacular water that originates from the Sierra La Laguna Mountains and is purified through our completely foolproof system, meeting EPA and International health standards. But even more exciting than that is the thousands upon thousands of single-use plastic water bottles that the Plaza Amigos station has kept out of the town dump. I could not be more pleased with how this is working.” Jenny agrees. “The Zero Waste Alliance as a concept is all about taking control of our own destiny as a community. It is about each individual asking what they specifically can do to reduce the amount of trash that goes to the landfill. Barbara has done this, and Richie and Marina have done this, and the impact of just these three people has been enormous. The goals of the Zero Waste Alliance of Todos Santos and El Pescadero – to produce less waste, take responsibility for the waste we do produce, and to support a circular economy in which waste is repurposed by vibrant local businesses – is all so achievable if we just unite as a community on this issue.” 

The Plaza Amigos water bottle refill station has already inspired others. Marimar Higgins of Cuatro Vientos, Dave Thompson of Over the Edge, Paola de ls Rosa of Hilo Rojo, and Enrique Sanchez of DoceCuarenta Cafe are in the process of designing their stations.

If you would like to learn more about water bottle refill stations and / or how to get a Water Ways Baja water filtration system in your home or business, please contact either Barbara Manfrediz or the Zero Waste Alliance:

Barbara Manfrediz: 
Zero Waste Alliance:

Plaza Amigos

Water Refill Station
Calle Benito Juarez, C. Zarageza,
Centro, Todos Santos, B.C.S., 23300

+52 612 154 2476


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Waste Reduction Directory
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Community Resources Hub
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Map of local companies keeping our area clean