Grinning they are not, but bearing it they are. And abiding by it, too.

Those are the chief conclusions of a survey last week by Washington Post special correspondents in the three Northern Vignia jurisdictions - Alexandria, Fairfax County and Prince William County - whose water use was restricted this fall.

Although an inch of rain or more fell last weekend in Northern Virginia, the water level in the Occoquan Reservoir on Monday remained where it had been before the deluge: at 96 feet.

The rain produced about 300 million gallons of water, meaning that it will be about a week before officals will have to amke a decision on buying emergency water supplies from nearby Manassas. However, with the reservoir down from 120 feet in May, there appeared little chance that mandatory conservation measures will be lifted soon.

The Post survey found that most affected Northern Virginians are not only conservving water in the ways emergency regulations specify, but in other ways as well.

It also found that, while reports to police of violations averaged one an hour in the early days of the restrictions, they are now down to one a day. And most of the early complaints, the survey found, were either unfounded or were handled with warnings.

Finally, the survey found that very few Northern Virginians have applied for exemptions, and even fewer have appealed the restrictios.

Gene Lesser of Falls Church reflected the prevailing attitude when he said: "It's me and my neighbors who are in trouble and we'd better stick together."

The restrictions went into effect in Alexandria and Fairfax Sept. 17, and in Prince William Oct. 1. Although details differ slightly among the three jurisdictions, the restrictions prohibit watering plants and lawns, washing cars or streets, filling or adding to swimming pools, serving drinking water in restaurants excent on request and operating air conditioners when the temperature is below 78 degrees.

In addition, owners and operators of apartments were ordered to inspect their premises for water leaks, correct any, and report publicly on what they found and did.

The maximum fine for each violation in all three jurissdictions in $500. But according to the survey, only six people have been charged as a result of the restrictionss - all in Fairfax - and none has paid a fine.

Maj. William Conner, the county's district one police commader, said the six were all people caught watering lawns or washing cars. All were charged during the first two weeks the restrictions were in effect, and no charges have been brought under the water rules since, Conner said.

Dave Watkins, deputy coordinator for emergency services in Fairfax, said the county's Water Emergency Appeals Board had received 48 exemption requests as of last week, and had granted 27 of them.

"The majority of those have to do with lawn problems," Watkins said. As a general policy, the county has been exempting homwowners with newly established lawns, he said.

But the water restrictions have been misery for some, and nowhere more so than in Lake Braddock.

There, Leroy F. Busa, president of the Lake Braddock High School Bruins Booster Club, was denied permission to hold the club's annual dunk-the-teacher fundraiser last Saturday.

Busa said the event raises between $400 and $500 every year. The money goes for extracurricuais equipment not bought by Fairfax County. But officials took one look at the traditional 1.000-gallon tank and turned thumbs down.

Many Northern Virginians have found that cooler weather and occasional rain have made any urge to cheat unnecessary.

"If it were August instead of October, things would be a little more tense," said Marcia Zaborsky of McLean.

"But, we haven't been affected at all. We don't water the garden, we don't fill our child's pool and my husband doesn't wash the car. We've always been careful about water use, anyway."

Preince William officials noted, however, that 11th hour watering of lawns and washing of cars was heavy just before restrictions went into effect.

County constrution services director Chuck Vincent said the county was "at 8 million gallons per day in August, and we dropped to 5.5 or 5.8 with voluntary restrictions. When they became mandatory on Oct. 1, that figure jumped to 6.3." The figure is now back in the middle "fives." Vincent said.

Alexandria has been perhaps the strictset of the three affected jurisdictions in granting exemptions. Of 20 applications, the city has granted only five.

Turndowns included the Old Town Holiday Inn and a Ramada Inn at Interstate 395 and Seminary Roafd. Both wanted to continue operating their simming pools, but the city said no.

Two of the five exeptions the city did grant went to elderly women. Because of age or disease, they were not strong enough to lift three-gallon containers, and were given permission to use hoses in their gardens.

Meanwhile, Alexandria cab drivers find themselves in a curious position. Although the water restrictions forbid them to wash their cabs, a longstanding city ordinance requires them to.

City hack inspector Marion Huffman said no problems have developed yet. Many cab companies have contracts with car washes, Huffman explained, and the only car washes that can open are those that recycle water. Diana Furman, a spokeswoman for Alexandria Yellow Cab, said she has not heard any complaints from drivers about their quandary - in either direction.

One way to beat the restrictions is to drill one's own well. And Barbara Cowan of Bell Pump and Well Service in Fairfax City and Vienna said she has gotten lots of calls for estimates.

But, because of prices, not all that much business. Bell charges between $7.50 and $8 a foot to drill wells, Cowan said. In addition, pumps and tanks cost between $900 and $2,000, depending on the well's depth.

At the Mt. Vernon Car Wash in Mt. Vernon, where water is recycled, business is excellent, reported Joe Norris, a partner.

"My only problem with the water shortage is nerves - wondering when they might tell us we have to close," Norris said.

Meanwhile, adjustments by the dozen are being made in private homes, and nowhere are they more numerous than in the Burke home of Charlene and Pete Murphy.

The family does not flush a toilet until two people have used it, Mrs. Murphy said. In addition, "we dump leftover ice cubes in the dog's water, and I save up dirty clothes and use a full load in my washer."

Mrs. Murphy reuses vegetable rinse water by dumping it on her pepper plant. Ten-year-old Cherilyn is bathed only severy other night, and no Murphy runs the water while washing dishes or brushing teeth.

John Crossin of Springfield has devised another water-saver. He leaves bricks in his toilet tank. Less water is displaced as a result, so less is flushed away.

Gene Lesser feels, however, that such sacrifices are nescessary. "I understand that it's a real thing." he said, "and that how much I use does affect me everybody else."