County officials have been talking for years about the need to safeguard our water supplies and build interconnections to make mutual aid easier.

Until a relatively minor fire created a crisis in suburban Maryland, it seemed nobody was listening.

It wasn't until water supplies dwindled, and in some cases ran out, that water suddenly became Topic A. We don't like to have our lives disrupted, even temporarily.

Some who were voluntarily reducing their use of water were incensed when they saw others wasting it. Police switchboards were flooded with complaints. One man who stopped for gas in Bethesda and saw a service station attendant washing a car said. "I felt like punching him in the nose. If I were 20 years younger, I would have."

Even among those who take life more philosophically, the water shortage was a chief topic of conversation, if only to pass along the latest joke. One that made the rounds was, "I understand two Boy Scouts were mugged for their canteens this morning."

As these lines are being written, the word from officials is that by Friday things may be getting back to normal. I wonder whether this means that by Saturday we will be back to our usual uninterest in providing for the future.

I hope not, but I'm afraid we will be. Why fix the roof when it's not raining?