South Side neighbors search for new answers to decades-old drainage issue

Residents say water can linger for weeks after it rains in some parts of the Harlandale-McCollum neighborhood

SAN ANTONIOThis story is part of the Know My Neighborhood: Harlandale-McCollum series.

Margaret Pena, 84, said her backyard has flooded every year since she moved into the Harlandale-McCollum neighborhood.

“Since 1978, which is well over 40 years,” Pena said. “The water has nowhere to go.”


In the Harlandale-McCollum neighborhood, residents like Pena said there are lingering issues with the drainage system every time it rains. For some neighbors, stagnant water and flooding have become persistent problems. San Antonio’s Public Works Department said it’s aware of these concerns and is actively working to change parts of the neighborhood’s drainage system with improvement projects.

Right now, construction crews for Public Works are working on a 2022 bond project for the Dorsey Drive area. In an emailed statement, Nick Olivier, a spokesperson for the department, said that three drainage improvement projects have been completed thus far in the neighborhood:

  • In 2008, the Wilma Jean and Rockwell Project was completed.
  • In 2013, a project on Rockwell Blvd. from Gillette Blvd. to Debora Street was completed.
  • In 2021, a project was completed for Low Water Crossing #133 at Petaluma from Pleasanton Road.

Pena said more help can’t come soon enough.

“There’s only one drain,” Pena said. “There’s no other drains on any other streets around here.”

Pena said on her block of the neighborhood, there is one main drain. KSAT 12 crews confirmed this after driving down her street. The drain funnels into the Harlandale and Sixmile Creeks. Pena said the flooding and drainage problems only got worse after the city cemented over these two creeks.

“That’s what it is,” Pena said. “They covered all the natural drains underground.”

Olivier confirmed reinforced concrete was placed along the Sixmile Creek from Commercial to Hutchins in the mid-’90s. When asked why the city would pave over natural creeks in San Antonio neighborhoods, Olivier said Public Works “attempts” to keep drainage channels as natural as possible.

“In order to reduce flooding, the capacity of channels must be increased by either increasing the size of an earthen channel or keeping the same footprint and converting it into concrete,” Olivier said. “Increasing the size of an earthen channel often requires relocating of some adjacent properties, and relocation of properties is something that is done only as a last resort.”

From 2004 to 2023, Public Works confirmed that there had been 53 drainage issues submitted for this neighborhood via 311. Public Works said its water division reviews and investigates these issues as they come. The department said as of now, “The drainage system is functioning as designed,” for the Harlandale-McCollum neighborhood.

Some neighbors have made solutions to these issues, like building ramps over parts of their yards that easily flood. Others, like Pena, said it’s the city’s responsibility to step up and help.

“It does kind of get pretty bad here,” Pena said.

Olivier confirmed that 11 other potential drainage projects have been identified by Public Works, but those all still need future funding.

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

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