Williamson Creek is a waterway that runs east from the Oak Hill neighborhood to McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin. In the 1970s the creek was used as a both as informal greenspace and as a drainage system. By 1982 overdeveloped in South Austin had overloaded the local water treatment facility and sewage was leaking into Williamson Creek, turning the creek into a blemish. A successful lawsuit led to the improvement of environmental conditions in the creek and the designation of significant portions of it as greenspace. Williamson Creek is surrounded by wildlife including blue jays, cardinals, and woodpeckers. However, the creek is flood prone. Following 2013’s Halloween flood, the overflow left more than 100 homes damaged. $18 million was used by city council to buy out the 70 homes that were most likely to be affected by a future flood.
Backstory and Context
Another challenge for people living along Williamson Creek is flooding. The creek floods constantly and easily after heavy rain. Developers built the neighborhoods along the creek using inaccurate flood zone maps. Residents living near Williamson Creek have always experienced some sort of flooding. For example, in 2001 residents living near Williamson Creek experienced a two-day rainstorm that brought about 14 inches of rain, causing major flooding. Despite the creek’s reputation for flooding, homeowners were reluctant to move since they had already planted roots in the neighborhood. One noted that she did not realize that her house was at risk of flooding.
“Her Realtor and the seller’s agent told her the house was in a flood plain but said it was not a dangerous purchase” 1
"She has lived in her house for nine years and doesn’t want to leave" 2
The city of Austin is looking into buying out houses in the areas along the river that are being affected by flooding. The city of Austin is in the process of buying over 60 homes in the neighborhoods along the creek that are in the floodplain according to new maps. Ultimately for the safety of the residents along the creek the buyouts will affect all homeowners in the immediate area.
2. McLemore, Andrew. Residents by flood-prone Williamson Creek ask: Should they stay or go?. Statesman. November 28, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2018. https://www.statesman.com/news/20141128/residents-by-flood-prone-williamson-creek-ask-should-they-stay-or-go.
3. Swearingen, William Scott. Environmental City : People, Politics, and the Meaning of Modern Austin. Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press, 2010. Accessed November 6, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
4. Fitzsimmons, Burton. 15 Years Ago Today: Historic Texas Flood. Spectrum News. November 16, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2018. http://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/austin/news/2016/11/16/14-inches-of-rain-968-homes-flooded-remembering-flood-of-november-01.