Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Jeremy N. Phillips, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amanda M. Olejarski, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christi Ellington, Ph.D.



This research project starts with a review of the literature that addresses the challenges facing public drinking water utilities and the impact these challenges are having on rate affordability. The degree and frequency at which water infrastructure is failing has escalated over the past few decades. These infrastructure failures along with the increased costs of operating a water utility have put enormous upward pressures on water rates charged by utilities for service.

In the state of Georgia, a large percentage of the population is living at or below the federal poverty level and many of the poorest are minorities. Increasing water rates puts more and more economic pressure on these already marginalized groups who are least equipped to afford higher rates.

The first research question examined if water rates were currently affordable in the State of Georgia. The hypothesis was that rates would be found to be unaffordable for much of the population of Georgia. The hypothesis was not supported. The analysis revealed that while rates were escalating in Georgia, they were still affordable for most of the population.

A second research question examined if infrastructure investment was having an effect on water rates increasing in Georgia Counties’. This hypothesis was only partially supported by the data. While some county water rates were clearly escalating, there was no clear indication that it was being driven exclusively by infrastructure spending.