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Group claims CSU Todos Santos center takes water from Mexican town’s scarce supply

CSU’s Todos Santos center opened April of 2015. The facility can house 46 students. (Photo courtesy of SOURCE.

Criticism of Colorado State University’s center in Todos Santos, Mexico has escalated in recent months following allegations tying CSU to the actions of a housing developer that is pumping water from the town’s scarce supply.

The Mexico-based company MIRA is planning a housing development called Tres Santos that could triple the size of the town. In 2014, MIRA donated land and helped construct a center for CSU. MIRA feeds water from the town’s supply into a tank that provides CSU’s recently-opened center with water.


Since its announcement, MIRA and CSU have received criticism from locals who say the plan could drastically affect the town environmentally and socially.

Despite assurances of good will from MIRA and CSU, many residents insist that public relation statements are contradictory to what is actually happening. John Moreno, an attorney who has lived in Todos Santos all his life, said PR statements cover up many of the problems MIRA is causing.

“Mexico has changed. These guys (MIRA) are using old-school, old Mexico tactics — they basically ignore the community,” Moreno said.

Previously, MIRA stated they would not draw water from the municipal supply, but now have made an agreement with the municipal water company and added a new pump, calling it a short-term solution before the company constructs a desalination plant.

A boy from Todos Santos stands in front of a water tank with a sign that says, “Without water, there is no future.” (Photo courtesy of Truth Santos.)

Todos Santos’ water supply is rationed. For most residents, water is only available every other day. The decaying pipe system is spotty, with many Sundays spent without water because of bandaid-like construction efforts.

“When they pump water to their holding tank, it drains the entire infrastructure,” Moreno said.

According to a statement from a PR group representing MIRA, the way the pump is installed makes it impossible for it to redirect water from the city system, and it is likely that residents are not receiving water because of sporadic city construction.

“Unfortunately, it’s easier for those opposed to development to spread untruths than it is to get documentation of the facts … but we’re working on it,” wrote Jane Ingalls, a PR consultant for MIRA, in an email to the Collegian.

The local activist group Truth Santos has negated much of what MIRA and CSU claim. In a press release sent out in August, the group claimed CSU was complicit in MIRA’s diversion of water and claimed many residents are not receiving water because of it.


In the press release, Truth Santos included information about an engineer sent by CSU to assess and check the progress of CSU facilities. In emails obtained from Colorado Open Records Act requests, Truth Santos found that the Fort Collins-based engineer, Keith Meyers, had seen a high level of incompetency in how MIRA was handling water.

[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”” caption=”E-mails obtained by Truth Santos”]

“Certainly there are challenges with water in Todos. However, I have not met anyone who is approaching the challenges in a smart, effective manner,” Meyers wrote in an email to CSU Special Projects director Kim Kita. “As with most developers, they are installing what they need to make their project viable … which may be at the detriment to what exists.”

In a second email response, Meyers stated, “I asked Juan Carlos (a MIRA representative) a lot of hard questions about how this would affect the existing piping. … He could not answer them. I do not think he understands distribution system hydraulics. I am worried that when the (CSU center) draws through pumping, it exhausts the supply for other parts of town.”

Truth Santos claimed CSU made no mention of the engineer’s concerns to MIRA. However, CSU representative Drew Wilson denied this claim and said the situation was remedied.

Todos Santos is located on the Baja Peninsula and has a population of about 6,000. (Photo screenshot courtesy of Google Maps.)
Todos Santos is located on the Baja Peninsula and has a population of about 6,000. (Photo screenshot courtesy of Google Maps.)

“When we learned a new pumping system would be required, we expressed concern about the effects this would have on the existing infrastructure,” Wilson wrote in a response posted to the CSU Todos Santos website. “MIRA responded by installing a holding tank (cistern) from which the pumps would draw.”

Larry Taub, a member of Truth Santos, said he questioned the legitimacy of Wilson’s statements given how early the holding tank was being developed.  

Taub, a part-time resident of Todos Santos, has sent numerous open records requests to the University regarding the Todos Santos project. He has demanded emails, agreement documents and other texts related to the donation and development of the housing project.

From his research, he has made many claims about CSU and the housing developer, ranging from the issue of water to the legitimacy of the CSU research foundation, a separate non-profit group that the CSU Todos Santos center is housed under. 

[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”” caption=”Claims made by Truth Santos that were presented to the CSU Board of Governors.”]

“In some sense, it was just a research project for me,” recalled Taub, who is a retired lawyer.

One of the main assertions Taub and Truth Santos made is that CSU is a marketing ploy from MIRA used to cover up many of the impacts the housing development could have on the community.

University responses, however, have insisted that the University is independent from MIRA and is able to conduct and publish research about any topic, including environmental and sustainability impacts.

Kita stated that CSU’s main mission through the Todos Santos project is “to cultivate generations of global citizens and thriving communities through collaboration, experience and exchange of knowledge.”

However, some even outside the Truth Santos group have found CSU’s role in the housing development to be questionable.

CSU President Tony Frank cuts a ribbon at the opening of CSU’s Todos Santos center. (Photo courtesy of SOURCE.)

Sean Owens, an associate dean at the University of California Davis Veterinary School, lives part time in Todos Santos. Owens tried to relay his concerns to CSU President Tony Frank early on in the development process.

Owens said he told Frank in an email, “People are upset about your association with Tres Santos. … I think you’re being used as a trojan horse.”

In 1998, Owens was a graduate student at CSU and said he knew Frank, who was then an associate professor.

After sending his concerns to Frank, Owens said he was expecting a professional relationship, but never got one. Taub, who had filed CORAs for a variety of emails, sent Owens the email chain in which Frank sent Owen’s message to other CSU administrators.

“I can follow the email train of me being handled,” Owens said. “I was basically handled in a PR way, which really annoyed me, because I don’t think it was an appropriate response.”

Owens said CSU is a world-class university, but that because of the partnership with MIRA, they have tied themselves down.

“When you’re a guest in someone else’s home, you have certain obligations,” Owens said. “I don’t think that CSU or Tres Santos has met their obligations as being good guests, and certainly their transparency is lacking.”

Ingalls, the PR consultant for Tres Santos, said transparency and communication is one of MIRA’s goals moving forward.

“I think we have a lot of great information and facts on the Tres Santos side,” Ingalls said. “I think what we have not done is a good job of communicating those. You can rest assured that is a priority for the group now.”

Collegian Executive Editor Skyler Leonard can be reached at or via Twitter @skyler_leonard.

Editor’s note: Colorado State University representative Kim Kita has responded to this article.

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  • K

    Karen WymanNov 18, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for this article, Skyler Leonard. You will be interested in the latest developments, I’m sure. Turns out Tres Santos has secretly been using municipal water for some time that they (a) have no rights to and (b) have not been paying for. The developers are playing the locals for fools, but this time they are wrong. They are also playing CSU for fools, and CSU’s best bet would be to cut their losses and run before they start looking bad. A number of the relevant videos in Spanish are now available with English subtitles, which helps get the truth out into the light of day. Keep up your good investigative reporting.

  • S

    Sue ReynoldsNov 4, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    If CSU continues the association with Tres Santos it will cement it’s reputation to wretched colonialism and the long tradition of “ugly Americans”. No one who has visited this stunning Mexican town in a fragile environment could possibly believe that thousands of new homes in an area with limited potable water could be anything but a scourge. I entreat all truly “mindful” CSU students to create a big and lasting protest over this egregious project.

  • M

    Mikol MaitlandNov 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    …and here’s a little desalination plant that will fit right into the quaint town of Todos Santos. Ugh.

  • T

    Tamara Vega HaddadNov 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

    “Do not imagine that the good you intend will balance the evil you perform” ― Norman Mac Donald

    RE: Colorado State University, Kim Kiti Response to Article

    First let me offer kudos to Colorado State University’s Special Director of Projects and Partnerships, Kim Kiti. She has been steadfast in fulfilling her job description without questioning the global outrage CSU Todos Santos “Campus” is
    provoking. In some circles, this is an admirable trait. Ms. Kiti cannot be blamed for her dedication to her weekly paycheck. Regardless if it is at the expense of sustainability, transparency and the sale of the, now questioned, SierraClub award.

    It is, however, a sign that the Rome is burning when Ms.Kiti attacks a journalist for exposing the story she failed to completely cover up. Let it be noted, it was not for her lack of trying. For example, Ms. Kiti was on the email string
    Todos Santos residents were forced to acquire through CORA (Colorado’s Freedom of Information Act) that began with engineer Keith Meyers stating his concern for water rights and ended with Colo State U ‘s VP Operations Amy Parsons writing, “In other Jimmy [Jim R. Mulvihill, founder of Black Creek Group, Realty] news, he’s very keen to fundraiser for us, and to mobilize his networks to fundraiser for us. We need to think in terms of a big ask for an
    endowment… Jimmy will personally give the seed money. Just another thing for us to figure out when we’re in Todos!…OK, back to board meeting.” You serve your bosses well Ms. Kiti. No one could ever question your professionalism –even on a college level.

    For every token excuse, every college professor, and unknowing student Ms. Kiti flaunts there are four folds of children, families, individuals and international university professors that are disheartened by the whitewash of greed and the lack of Colo State U’s academic integrity. This article is not about a developer long known for practices in Mexico. This article is about Colorado State University selling its Sierra Club award and that lack of transparency behind it. In a town of over 5000 people, Ms. Kiti’s reference to a mystery survey of 150 unnamed people holds little weight. Although, there is certainly issues that Todos Santos residents have with the sustainability, environmental and human rights issues played out by Colo State U’s partner. Black Creek Group/MIRA, it is the shame that a reputable public university would sell their Sierra Club award as a marketing tool for the branding of the “health &
    wellness” beach resort that trumps all development issues in both Mexico and the United States of America.

    The going price for a Sierra Club award is 4.3 million dollars. Whether it is spent on land, buildings, air conditioner or water holding tanks are not the concern. It is the sellout of what was once a revered award among US public universities. In one fell swoop, Colorado State U President Tony Frank and VP Amy Parsons have diminished the validity for 100’s of universities across the USA that share the title. Ms. Kiti has been directed to refer
    to the marketing deal as a gift. Acquired CORA documents, which CSU would not provide, establish that the gift has a condition: Colorado State University’s complacency and silence. It should be noted that the paid staff and volunteer Board of Governors have been honorable in upholding their end of the agreement with Black Creek Group/MIRA.

    For more unbiased insight into Colorado State University’s complacency in unsustainable and environmental atrocities read: Colorado State campus mega-development steals Mexican beach – you call
    that ‘mindful’

    I believe even Kim Kiti will have a hard time throwing this “college” writer under the bus – Viviane Mahieux is Associate Professor of Spanish, Spanish and Portuguese, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine. A Sierra Club Award recipient.

  • M

    Mikol MaitlandOct 30, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    In case anyone missed it, the fishermen have come together to create a blockade at the Tres Santos site to block the construction workers from accessing the site. Sounds like things are heating up.

  • S

    Steve MummeOct 28, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    If it can be shown that SEMARNAT failed to consider all relevant information in its approvals for the Todos Santos/MIRA projects then local residents may want to consider filing an Article 14 Failure to Enforce submission with the Montreal based Commission for Environmental Cooperation. This is a time consuming and detail oriented procedure so it may in fact tax the capacity of local residents. But it is certainly worth a thought. The procedure may be found on the CEC website:

    • P

      Pat AdamsOct 28, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      Sounds like a good idea. Do you know if the CEC is an organization that came about when the NAFTA treat was signed? I ask this question because I became aware that a real estate development in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico called El Paraiso del Mar/El Mogote was shut down by the work of two organizations: CEMDA (Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental), Mexican Center for Environmental Rights and AIDA (Internacional Association for Water Law). These organizations were both set up when the NAFTA treaty came into being. My understanding is that CEMDA ( and AIDA ( sued SEMARNAT, the Mexican environmental agency. So a court ruled that SEMARNAT did not follow Mexico’s federal laws. The permit for the Paraiso del Mar/El Mogote project was revoked and this occurred after construction had begun. The shell of at least one uncompleted high rise building remains; maybe there are more. I can’t remember. But the project was stopped. I appreciate your sharing of the information about CEC. It’s worth looking into.

      • S

        Steve MummeOct 29, 2015 at 11:33 am

        CEC is a NAFTA based organization. It has undertaken a number of investigations in Mexico. My understanding from conversations with members of its SEM unit (Submissions on Enforcement Matters) is that Mexico has lately been hard to deal with on account of the government’s argument that investigations shouldn’t be undertaken while domestic administrative and legal actions are still ongoing–essentially a stalling mechanism but one that can be very effective in preventing CEC from going forward. But even the publicity associated with filing a CEC complaint can be helpful in drawing attention to the adverse effects of a project. So it may be worth doing anyway.

  • N

    Nancy MillsOct 28, 2015 at 9:16 am

    As a full-time resident in clear view of this “research extension” school, I can’t believe a needs assessment for this community has been completed. There is no cultural competency apparent! The school is built right against the community cemetery, leaving little to no room for growth, which undoubtably will happen! Who does this??
    And further, this institution is not for the citizens here. It’s an elitist project offered only to those affiliated with CSU. Shame on you. Oh, I know…there are throwaway classes on Dengue and composting, but really? How insulting.

  • G

    GeraldhallOct 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    so glad to see the comments here and please share this article media is an excellent tool in raising awareness as well as to counteract the lies, omissions, and half truths of the slick sales adds which is crucial to any prospective buyers in the very non-sustainable development…getting the truth out is crucial

  • S

    Sharon McQuirkOct 26, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    How can the university align themselves with a project that is creating such environmental devastation? The water is just one issue of concern. If CSU was true to their mission statement “to cultivate generations of global citizens and thriving communities through collaboration, experience and exchange of knowledge.” they would need to be a more responsible global citizen. This project is being built with no concern for the environment, no thought to the burden of the local infrastructure and no respect for the local people that live in Todos Santos. They said they would not take any water from Todos Santos and the fishermen would always be able to fish there, but this is not the case. If we want to be good global citizens lets start by looking at what is really happening here to the environment and the people.

  • M

    Mikol MaitlandOct 26, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    The discussion of desalination plants for this size of a community is not a feasible / long term solution. Especially for a development that is green-washing the ecological angle of the development. Desalination plants generate a nasty salt / brine by-product that current methods being used in Baja California by mega-resorts is injecting this by-product deep into the sandy ground near the plant, which is located adjacent to the ocean. Recent testing has determined the material has been leaching up out of the ground and destroying local reefs and fish habitats. Another environmental factor is the energy consumption required to run a plant of this magnitude. It can take anywhere from 2-4 kWh to process a cubic meter of water. I am not sure if they have enough windmills or solar panels planned to offset this amount of energy consumption. As an architect who has lived in this area for many years, I am saddened to see yet another money hungry developer try to green-wash their way to the bank. If you want to develop a Eco-friendly resort…then practice balance and harmony with the site and surrounding community. Painting a green leaf on a half dozen D-11 bulldozers to evict the local fishermen and say it’s an eco-friendly project doesn’t quite cut it these days. Take a trip over to Puerto Los Cabos and see how the developer embraced the local fishermen and created an environment for them to thrive and continue their tradition of fishing an relationship with the sea.

    • S

      sfOct 31, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      you sir rock

  • L

    Lynn PierceOct 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    This project if full of lies and half-truths. There is only one source of water and only so much to go around. That’s a fact. Whether it is piped directly from the supply or goes to a holding tank first makes no difference. It’s still taking water from the people who live there. The water situation is only the tip of the iceberg for the destructive environmental impact this project has already had to the beach and the fisherman’s access to their only safe harbor for bringing their boats in and out. Keep checking the facts and you’ll find there’s a lot being swept under the rug here.

  • P

    Pat AdamsOct 26, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I appreciate Rocky Mountain Collegian’s efforts in revealing this very murky relationship between Colorado State University and the Tres Santos mega-real estate development in the currently small town of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, all of which seems to have been devised to benefit the marketing efforts of this real estate company. CSU’s involvement with Tres Santos does not demonstrate the spirit of academic freedom that U.S. universities try to adhere to. Also, MIRA/Blackwell/Tres Santos has had only only public meeting with the residents of Todos Santos way back in mid-2013; they probably thought this was obligatory in order to seek approval by the Mexican federal environmental agency, SEMARNAT whose permit was required to move forward with this project. SEMARNAT’S environmental review was so deficient that it was laughable, but not in a good way. I am a part-time resident of Todos Santos and a U.S. citizen. Why is the Black Creek Group, the large Denver-based real estate investment firm protected by the Rocky Mountain Collegian by not being mentioned in this article? Every time I have read about the Tres Santos development the proponent was referred to as MIRA/Black Creek. Jim R. Mulvihill, one of the founding partners of Black Creek Group ( is also a co-founder of MIRA. On the Black Creek Capital website it mentions that MIRA was founded by Black Creek Capital. Mr. Mulvihill’s hands are all over the Tres Santos development, including the relationship with Colorado State University. Indeed in one of the documents obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act and included in this article there is a written communication between of a CSU administrator suggesting that CSU come up with a “big ask” from Jimmy, a request for a big donation from him personally or from his real estate development company to benefit CSU.

    • G

      GeraldhallOct 26, 2015 at 8:28 pm

      some excellent questions and I wonder if any of them will be truthfully addressed by the people behind these companies?

      • P

        Pat AdamsOct 26, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        I wonder the same thing. I am grateful that the Rocky Mountain Collegian wrote this initial article and I hope that this newspaper continues to follow up with more investigative journalism to further uncover the truth and to unpeel the layers of public relations-speak used by CSU, MIRA/Black Creek, and Tres Santos. If it’s possible for some of the Collegian staff to visit Todos Santos and find out more I am sure that many of the concerned people in Todos Santos would willingly provide lodging for these journalists. All the journalists would need to do is look up the contact information on

    • J

      Jamie SechristOct 26, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      I agree and would like to hear the answers to these questions as well. Thank you for this comprehensive view into the issue Pat!

    • J

      Jamie SechristOct 26, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      May I interject with this article that came out in El Indepente today. I have translated the text and will include the link at the bottom.

      La Paz, Baja California Sur.- currently conducts review and adjustments to the portfolio of projects and the program of works by the State Water Plan (PHE)program with a long-term and at the same time it seeks to respond to the immediate needs of the various sectors of Baja California Sur , Plata said Luis Alfonso Martinez, Director of the Conagua.

      State Water Plan BCS

      He said that the commitment of PHE is that the works and actions taken for the water sector in BCS meet the needs of its population and solving the environmental problems of the region, for which the Conagua periodically reviews and makes appropriate adjustments to the program State water (PHE), considered an essential tool for planning public policies in this area between the three levels of government.

      The Local Director of the Conagua, Martinez Plata, said Baja California Sur is one of the areas of the country with less water availability, which makes imperative to ensure the sustainable use of this resource.

      He explained that although the Water State Program should consider a long-term vision, review your goals and making adjustments to the schedule of works and actions allow refocus interagency efforts towards addressing priority issues, without losing sight the general objectives and its alignment with the national water policy.

      In that regard, he said that local management reviews the catalog of actions and projects to consider in the budget year 2016 for this hydrological-administrative region, as part of the Water State Program 2014-2018.

      Process, he said, is carried out with the collaboration and validation of state and municipal agencies involved in the issue, and the Basin Council of Baja California Sur , which is composed of citizens representing the various uses of water in the state , so it complies with the policy of transparency and accountability.

      Silver Martinez said that the fundamental commitment of updating the PHE is to ensure a better quality of life for Baja California Sur, through inclusive actions, agreed with social sensitivity and with due attention to the growing demand for water that economic development and urban demand.

      • P

        Pat AdamsOct 27, 2015 at 10:48 am

        The comments of Mr. Luis Alfonso Martinez Plata, Director of CONAGUA (Comision Nacional del Agua), the National Commission of Water of the Mexican federal government, reinforce the point that in Southern Baja California the availability of water is very scarce and that very careful planning and some revisions and adjustments need to be made to make sure that there is enough water for everyone whether it be residents, farmers, or tourists. That is why the extremely deficient environmental impact statement submitted by Tres Santos and approved by SEMARNAT, the equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., makes it look like the Mexican environmental agency overlooked all the missing information about how water would be supplied to Tres Santos, where exactly it would come from for all of these new people in addition to current residents, and whether or not there actually exists enough water in the local aquifers to approved a mega-project that would bring in massive amounts of the tourist dollars that the Mexican federal government wanted. They neglected to provide evidence of test drilling and very little hydrological information. My husband, Dr. E. Eric Adams, is a civil and environmental engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He researches water quality, fluid mechanics, and sustainability and has read and written many environmental impact statements during his career. He couldn’t believe how lacking in information Tres Santos’ (originally called Playa Santos) environmental impact statement was when he read it. I don’t consider the issue of the approval and permit by SEMARNAT to be a done deal that cannot be overturned. Even though construction has begun there are other projects in Baja California Sur (e.g., El Paraiso del Mar/El Mogote in La Paz) that have been shut down even though construction had begun. It takes a lot of work to make this happen, but there are ways to do it.

    • P

      Pat AdamsOct 28, 2015 at 9:41 am

      The reference to the website for the Black Creek Group should be Above I accidentally left out “creek.”

  • B

    Bob DannenholdOct 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

    As an educatior, I have a tremendous amount of respect for CSU and all they do for students. But I currently have some serious issues with CSU regarding their lack of transparency about their relationship with MIRA, an investment and real estate development company based in Denver. MIRA has plans to build over 4,000 homes in desert terrain just south of Todos Santos, a 200 year-old village in Baja California Sur subsisting on fishing and tourism WHICH ALREADY HAS A DOCUMENTED HISTORY OF SEVERE WATER SHORTAGES. MIRA claims on its website that it is “conducting research on water scarcity” even as it drains thousands of gallons from local resoures to fill a huge water tank on its property. It has also laid cement over much of a once-pristine beach that served as the center of the town’s fishing industry for centuries. A new seawall along that beach threatens to erode what is left of it, as it has been incorrectly engineered and washes more sand out to sea with each large wave. As a university, how can you send students to witness such wanton disregard for precious natural resources to serve the personal gain of a few? How can you justify the destruction of a local industry serving not only the fishermen but the local restaurants that rely on them? How about sending some engineering students down here to learn what NOT to do? Water is a scarce resource in the Todos Santos desert community, which has a documented history of running out of water. Unfortunately, local people who barely have a roof over their heads do not have the resources to connect with the rich and powerful who have always run the Mexican government. It is up to those fortunate enough to not only have unlimited water but also the opportunity for a college education to find other ways to make a buck besides stepping on the little people and destroying their way of life. Shame on CSU for not only affiliating itself with this kind of unscrupulous development, but then trying to portray it as a “model” of envionmental responsibility! We also applaud the “Rocky Mountain Collegian” for calling attention to this serious situation.

    • J

      Jamie SechristOct 26, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you Bob, you nailed the main issues right on the head. In a meeting held by the company a few years ago they expressed that they would NEVER use a drop of the towns water. Now they have concessions for their first 74 homes to get water, CSU location gets water for their farm and community, and the hotel. This year has BEEN the worst for having water in your homes in Todos Santos that I have ever experienced. When they were growing the sorghum for the future farm space, we had no water come into our house for a few days at a time. This is just the beginning of this “sustainable” project and people in town are already experiencing more water issues.