Fraher, A. (2020). Economic and Political Uncertainty and The Effects of Organizational Integration, Volume Flexibility, And Redundancy on Reliability and Delivery for Water Utilities. Unc Charlotte Electronic Theses And Dissertations.
Every hour of everyday water utilities across the United States labor tirelessly to supply clean, safe, and affordable drinking water to residential and industrial consumers. Wastewater from these homes and businesses is captured and moved to treatment plants where it is then treated and returned to the environment so that it can be used again. Water utilities utilize vast networks of steel and iron pipes in their distribution and collection systems, as well as valves to control and direct the flow as needed to ensure uninterrupted service. Over time, as these pipes and valves age and wear, they will need to be maintained, and the costs of those repairs are part of the annual budgeting cycle. Water utility budgets are determined on a yearly basis, so any material cost increases must be accurately forecasted to avoid budget overruns. Economic and political uncertainty (EPU) in the form of new regulations, tariffs, taxes, etc. can materially impact a water utility's ability to reliably and consistently deliver water to their customers. While the current literature has shown the impact of EPU on for-profit companies across a range of industries, as well as the result of regulations on not for profit firms, little research has been conducted on the impact of EPU driven by new tariffs on non-profit utilities. This study will draw upon resource optimization theory to better understand and explain how water utilities respond to EPU. We will examine the relationships between internal and external integration, volume flexibility and redundancy, and reliability, and delivery. This quantitative study will utilize survey data from water utilities in NC, SC, and VA, and the results will be analyzed using structural equation modeling.