The majority of area residents surveyed last summer believe the Washington area may have a water shortage in the next few years and would be willing to pay higher water bills to reduce that chance, according to the Council of Governments.

Most residents also said they would be willing to pay higher prices to assure a water supply of high quality and reduce health risks.

The survey of area residents and people living in key upstream and downstream areas outside of this area was conducted by the Council of Governments and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin under a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. COG's Water Resources Planning Board is preparing an areawide water quality plan designed to restore the quality of the area's water resources.

Of 22.279 surveys distributed to interested organizations and individuals and at 17 public meetings, 12 per cent were returned, COG reports.

The majority of the 2,738 people who responded said that when water is scarse, users should be charged more for any amount of water in excess of the previous winter's use. They also said that commercial and industrial high volume users should not be given a price break on water supply - a practice in many area communities.

Ninety-seven per cent of those who replied said water quality waa a major concern, along with water supply, and quality shouls be considered at least as important as supply.

The majority said water conservation actions should be taken, including passage of local laws to require that new and renovated buildings be equipped with water conservation plumbing fixtures. Slightly more than half said laws should also require inexpensive conservation fixtures in all existing homes and commercial and government buildings. Ninety-three per cent of the metropolitan area residents who replied said government agencies should use more conservation fixtures as a way to determine their effectiveness, COG reported.

The survey results will be used by the Corps of Engineers in preparing its Metropolitan Washington Area Water Supply Study, which is to be completed in 1982. The study is to examine ways to reduce demand for water and develop additional sources.