DRIP. . . DRIP. . . DRIP. That leaky faucet you've been meaning to fix could be wasting up to 20 gallons of water a day.

The experts say more water is actually wasted than consumed. The average household uses approximately 200 to 250 gallons of water each day, and 70 per cent of that figure is consumed in the bathroom alone.

All this sort of information, which people have listened to without heeding for years, suddenly becomes vital information with the off again/on again water crises threatening the Washington area.

What follows is a roundup of water-saving devices available in Washington-area stores from 5-cent washers to expensive water-saving toilets, combined with free water-saving tricks compiled by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from its experience with water shortages.

Check for toilet leaks by placing a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait a few minutes and if, without flushing, the coloring appears in the bowl, you have a leak which could be wasting up to 100 gallons a day.

Stop using the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket.

Decrease the amount of water used to flush the toilet. The average toilet requires five to seven gallons of water for each flush, but experts say the worst way to cut down on that figure is by placing a brick in the tank, it can crack the tank if dropped and will eventually disintegrate. The saving in water usage is minimal.

Another way to cut down is "Little John," a damming device which is said to be easily installed in standard tanks to reduce the amount of water with each flush to only 3 1/2 gallons without affecting the toilet's efficiency. It is available at Metropolitan Water Saving Co. (5130 MacArthur Blvd. NW) for $4.95.

"The Water Saver," a new commodo specifically designed to eliminate water waste, aims to limit the amount to three gallons per flush and is available at Sears, Roebuck & Co. outlets for $79.90. "Fill Valve," available at True Value Hardware branches in Maryland and Virginia and other area hardware stores for $4.59, replaces the ball cock with a valve designed to reduce the amount of water filling the tank.

Bathing with a friend is another way to save water. If you can't give up your daily shower at least make it less wasteful. An average shower pumps out 5 to 10 gallons of water per minute. It can be reduced three ways. The first is by adding an attachment that fits directly on the showerhead called a flow restrictor, available in area hardware stores. The second, a "Flow Control Valve," (available at Sears and True Value HArdware for $4.98) can be installed on any standard showerhead, and has an on/off button which allows the water to be turned off during soaping without losing its temperature. Individual showerheads are available that reduce the water flow to only 2 1/2 gallons per minute. "Bubble Stream" ($6.95) and SavorShower ($7.95) are both available at Metropolitan Water Saving Co.

Turn off running water while brushing teeth and shaving. In the kitchen, rinse vegetables in a sinkful of clean water, rather than under running water.Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator for drinking.

Dishwashers use an average of 25 gallons, so use only for full loads. The same goes for washing machines, which average 30 to 35 gallons per cycle.

Saving water outside can be difficult, especially if you have a thirsty lawn or garden. Where and when watering is permitted, do so only when needed. If your grass springs back after stepping on it, don't water. When you do water (preferably during the cool of the day), deep soak your lawn instead of sprinkling the surface.And avoid watering on windy days when your sidewalk may get more water than the lawn. "Water Timer," an automatic timer for your sprinkler system, is available for $9 at True Value Hardware.

If you must wash your car, use the hose only for rinsing off. And fill a small pool for the kiddies to splash in rather than using a hose or sprinkler to cool off.