Indoor Plumbing Needs on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Location: Virginia | Client: Accomack‐Northampton Planning District Commission | Project Date: October 2014 – November 2015

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Indoor Plumbing Needs on the Eastern Shore of Virginia Report

Project Description


Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a rural, under-resourced community, which has many residences that lack indoor plumbing. Residents in these circumstances often use night pails, unpermitted privies or backyard port‐a‐johns. In addition to the impact on quality of life for residents, this antiquated problem results in human waste disposal practices that threaten water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and endanger the local seafood and tourism economy. Historically, the full extent of the problem has not been documented, but is suspected to impact hundreds of homes. The Accomack‐Northampton Planning District Commission (A‐NPDC) has championed efforts to solve the indoor plumbing challenge and needed assistance to identify the locations of additional impacted homes on the Bayside of the Eastern Shore and develop a comprehensive strategy for funding future indoor plumbing and rehab efforts.


With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Skeo Solutions conducted a windshield survey that documented the indoor plumbing status of 1,226 homes on the Bayside, including 995 homes considered to be in “hot spot” areas for indoor plumbing needs. Of these 1,226 homes, 112 (9%) were found to lack complete indoor plumbing facilities.

Next, Skeo Solutions developed a prioritization and funding framework for resolving the indoor plumbing needs of the homes surveyed as well as thousands of additional homes that still need to be surveyed. The framework uses criteria including proximity to sensitive environmental features and clusters of homes to prioritize a set of homes for potential NFWF assistance. The framework also identifies the need to complete an indoor plumbing needs assessment of the entire Eastern Shore and to pursue rehab funding for homes with known indoor plumbing needs from multiple creative funding sources, including sources that focus on watershed health and/or environmental justice needs.

In May 2015, Skeo Solutions and the A-NPDC facilitated a technical working session to share the results of the windshield survey, gather feedback on funding recommendations, and share potential funding sources. Working session participants affirmed the importance of completing needs assessment for homes not assessed by the current study to set a baseline and guide future investments. They also affirmed the prioritization of homes in four priority areas (Holden’s Creek, Pocomoke Sound, Occohannock Creek and Church Creek) for potential NFWF assistance because of the homes’ proximity to sensitive watershed features.


The findings of the study and the outcomes of the technical working session are summarized in the report Indoor Plumbing Needs on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The report documents the recommended framework (including cost estimates) for pursuing funding to complete a full Bayside needs assessment and rehabbing prioritized homes identified in the windshield survey.  The report also documents a wide range of potential funding sources to inform A-NPDC for addressing these needs and pursue additional NFWF funding. It further captures new funding sources to pursue Seaside needs assessment and rehab homes not currently prioritized for potential NFWF assistance. The report emphasizes the importance of holistically examining problems that impact both human quality of life and watershed health and finding opportunities for creative collaboration between the many organizations and entities who are committed to improving quality of life and environmental conditions on the Eastern Shore.