Recent stories in The Post have emphasized the gravity of the drought in the D.C. metropolitan area, but a crucial point was left out ["Drought Disaster Declared in Region," front page, Aug. 3]. Consumers can take many steps to ease the strain on limited water resources.

Consumers can use a moisture indicator to tell when lawns need watering, and prevent water loss from evaporation by not watering during the hottest part of the day or when it is windy. Under normal conditions, lawns need to be watered only every five to seven days in the summer.

Consumers should run the dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full.

Using a broom, rather than a hose, to clean sidewalks and driveways results in significant water savings.

When brushing teeth or washing dishes by hand, consumers should turn on the water only to rinse, rather than letting it run continuously.

Even more important than short-term fixes, long-term solutions such as installing water-efficient fixtures, including toilets and shower heads, can cut water use by 30 percent. All new homes built since 1996 use these fixtures, and in 1998 alone they saved more than 16 billion gallons of water -- enough to fill 1.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Skillful planning for future development and sprawl is crucial, but by employing water-saving techniques now, we immediately reduce stress on the lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers from which we draw water.

JOHN H. SULLIVAN

Deputy Executive Director

American Water Works Association

Washington