“Don’t drink the tap water” has been the mantra in Mexico for years. Water filtration companies have a much different message. They want people in private homes, at restaurants and hotels to be able turn the faucet on and imbibe without regret.
Barbara Manfrediz has been operating Water Ways Baja in Todos Santos for nearly a decade. In that time, she has installed more than 300 filtration systems in Todos Santos, La Paz, Los Cabos and La Ventana.
“I call them cartridges because they do so much more than filter out contaminants,” Manfrediz said of her product. “Each cartridge is in a specific order and does a different job.”
While the transplant from the United States worked in the legal profession prior to moving to Baja Sur, her education is in science. What led Manfrediz to the world of water was realizing she was enjoying all the wonderful local food, but the water was an issue. She made it her mission to fix the problem. She worked for another company prior to going out on her own.
Before opening Water Ways Baja, she did research, which led her to Charles F. “Chubb” Michaud. He is a world-renowned authority on water quality. He is her mentor and No. 1 consultant.
“I found out the only ethical way to treat water was to test it first,” Manfrediz said. This meant collecting water from all the public sources she would be working with. “We tested for over 100 contaminants. Based on the water tests we have specified technology to take care of that water.”
While she follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, sometimes she is even more strict. In La Ventana, on the East Cape, the water has high concentrations of arsenic. Manfrediz uses a complex system to ensure what comes out of the tap has no measurable amount of arsenic. The EPA allows some.
“I believe the reason our water tastes so good is because of the minerals. In the U.S. they remove the minerals,” Manfrediz said.
She admits her business model would not work in the United States because she refuses to conform to a one-size fits all approach. Each customer of Water Ways Baja has a specifically designed system based on their town and where they are on that city’s water line.
It’s a small operation with Manfrediz, her husband as marketing guru (a new website was just launched), a plumber, technician, and officer manager. Customer service, she said, is one of their strong points.
Water purification systems start at $500 and go into the thousands of dollars depending on the size of the property. Maintenance is required once a year, with inspection of the cartridges by the company. It can cost about $150 a year for replacement cartridges for an average home in Todos Santos.
What the customer gets is the knowledge that they can drink from every tap connected to the system. No need to schlep into town to fill a 5-gallon jug. No need to worry about cooking with “good” or “bad” water. It’s all good. Plus, the lime scale build-up in the shower is much less with this “good” water. For restaurants it means not having to serve bottled water and for hotel guests to be able to turn on the tap without worry.
For those needing to refill a personal water bottle, A Granel in Todos Santos and Mini Super Munchies in Pescadero have stations set up by Water Ways Baja.
The company donated the water system to the Palapa Learning Center in Todos Santos, which includes free maintenance forever.
Water Ways Baja is a member of the Water Quality Association, the International Water Association, and the American Water Works Association. With technology evolving and water itself always changing, Manfrediz said it’s important to stay at the forefront to know how best to serve current and future customers.