Michelle Lees of Vienna is quite familiar with the problems Washington residents encounter in trying to pay their water bills. She writes:

"Did you know that when you sell a house in the District, you must pay a minimum of $150 to be put into escrow subject to the final reading of the water meter?

"When we sold our house in D.C. in October of 1979 we figured our bill at around $30. We could have used the $120 refund as our family has expanded. But it took 11 months to get the final reading! Our real estate agent told us he has clients who have been waiting even longer than that. The city can't be that desperate for funds if it lets so much money lie in escrow for so long."

Alas, Michelle, the city really is desperate for revenue, and Mayor Barry is making people angry by being so conscientious in looking for it.

Consumers and businessmen complain bitterly about higher taxes. Everybody who benefits from aid programs complains bitterly about suggestions that such programs be curtailed, or even that a greater effort be made to reduce the fraud and waste inherent in them. City employees complain bitterly about pay increases that are too small to keep pace with inflation. And those whose taxes pay the salaries of city employees complain bitterly about the poor productivity of public servants.

I don't know why it has to take 11 months to complete an 11-second meter reading. Mayor Barry is obviously more than puzzled; he's frustrated and angry about the great water bill snafu. Yet it persists.

Why anybody would want to be so mayor or a president and catch so much flak from all sides is more than I can understand. HELP WANTED

If it has not already come to your attention, my colleague Scott Chase reminds you this morning that today is Dec. 1.

This is the day on which Children's Hospital begins its annual fund drive.

I hope you will help the hospital raise the money it needs.

Oldtime District Liners know the story by heart now. If you're new to the area, here's a quick fill-in:

Children's is the hospital with the built-in deficit. More than a century ago, its charter dedicated it to the service of all children, and Children's Hospital has been faithful to that trust. It gives equal treatment to children of every race and creed, and it never turns away a sick child for lack of money.

A hospital that is willing to care for sick children whose parents cant' pay the bill is a hospital that is in constant need of financial help. And that's what Our Town -- the entire metropolitan area served by the hospital -- provides at the end of each year.

For more than 100 years, residents of this area have given the hospital the green light to continue running up those deficits on behalf of the poor. In effect, District Liners have said to the hospital, "You guys take care of the kids. At the end of the year, we'll chip in and bail you out for what you spent on those who couldn't afford to pay."

Until the project grew too large to be handled in this column, it was my privilege to report to you on each annual campaign. Last year, Scott Chase took over in a column that was published directly beneath this one during December and January.

Scott raised more money than I ever did in my best year, and it's a good thing he did because each year inflation increases the need for funds. This year, for example, we need about 13 percent more than we needed last year. So it is my earnest hope that you'll follow Scott's reports and join in Our Town's annual rescue mission for Children's Hospital.

P.S.: Please address contributions to Scott Chase, care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Do not send them to me. Scott's desk is a football field removed from mine, and contact between us is further complicated because he works days and I work nights. If you address your letter to Scott, it will be acknowledged more quickly and your check will clear more quickly. Phone calls relating to the Children's Hospital fund drive should also be routed to Scott. He knows the answers to most questions about the campaign and he knows how to get the answers to the others.

All I know is that the kids need help. And if you and I don't give it to them, who will -- the people who live in Alburquerque?