Federal spigot inspectors have tracked down an outlaw sink at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The offending fixture (located in a ladies room within the giant HUD building) had been dispensing hot water just like in preprohibition days. For the last six months hot water has been banned to save energy in most federal buildings here.

General Services Administration brass ordered the local U.S. hot water cutoff last June. GSA engineers, after exhaustive research, determined that the taxpayers could save a lot of money if the 350,000-plus federal personnel here could be induced to spruce up using cold water. As a further inducement, GSAengineers either cut off hot water at the source or removed handles on hot water taps so nobody would be tempted to cheat.

But alas, no program of this magnitude is perfect! Just this week, operating on a tip, cold-water enforcers sent a team into the HUD bathroom and discovered, to their horror, that the federal establishment had not gone entirely cold turkey. Be advised, however, that they have rendered the sink -- which had thrilled hundreds of clean-hands buffs at HUD -- inoperable. Today it is just like any other government sink with two kinds of water: cold and colder.

Word of HUD's legendary Fountain of Warmth spread like wildfire along the federal grapevine. HUD has hot water, it was said, why not us? An International Revenue Service employe called, steaming, the other day to say that he had heard that the Department of Energy had hot water and how do you like those apples? DOE officials checked for us, and swear up and down that its sinks are as cold as the next departments.

There are, of course, exception to the hot water cutoff.Members of Congress have had hot water throughout the downtown cold spell. And you can bet your mittens that when members of the National Security Council go for a wash-up at the White House they do not suffer chilled pinkies.

GSA officials are furious over the bad press the hot-water cutoff has received. They say the media has created a tempest in a teapot. The program has worked, they say, and Uncle Sam here is using less oil since the spigots went cold.

Some thoughtful feds -- and high officials -- think the GSA people are missing the point. They argue that there are other ways to conserve energy, and that the hot water cutoff is a Chicken Little, petty approach to the energy problem, and just another twist of the knife into bureaucrats.

So, if it is true that misery loves company, be happy today. The illicit sink is out of commission at HUD.

Federal officials worry, however, that there may be other illegal hot water sinks -- maybe even just a couple of blocks from the White House. Remember, if you run across a hot water tap, it is your duty as a patriot to report it to the authorities.