The data on plumbing facilities were obtained from Housing Question 8 a, b, and c in the 2009 American Community Survey. The question was asked at both occupied and vacant housing units. Complete plumbing facilities include: (a) hot and cold running water, (b) a flush toilet, and (c) a bathtub or shower. All three facilities must be located inside the house, apartment, or mobile home, but not necessarily in the same room. Housing units are classified as lacking complete plumbing facilities when any of the three facilities is not present.
Plumbing facilities provide an indication of living standards and assess the quality of household facilities within the housing inventory. These data provide assistance in the assessment of water resources and to serve as an aid to identify possible areas of ground water contamination. The data also are used to forecast the need for additional water and sewage facilities, aid in the development of policies based on fair market rent, and to identify areas in need of rehabilitation loans or grants.
The 1996-2007 American Community Survey questions were stand-alone questions that asked the respondent to answer either "Yes, has all three facilities" or "No" to the question of whether the housing unit had complete plumbing facilities, requiring that the facilities all be in the same unit. Starting in 2008, the structure of the question changed and combined plumbing facilities with kitchen facilities and telephone service availability into one question to ask, "Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have -" and provided the respondent with a "Yes" or "No" checkbox for each component needed for complete facilities. An additional change introduced in 2008 included changing the description of the component "hot and cold piped water to hot and cold running water."
Caution should be used when comparing American Community Survey data on plumbing facilities from the years 2008 and after with both pre-2008 ACS and Census 2000 data. Changes made to the plumbing facilities question between the 2007 and 2008 ACS involving the wording, the response option, and translation to the Spanish questionnaire resulted in an inconsistency in the ACS data. This inconsistency in the data was most noticeable as an increase in housing units "lacking complete plumbing facilities."