Herbert Hoover promised to put a chicken in every pot. Now John K. Rafferty, the mayor of this 26,000-household Trenton suburb, wants to put a water-conserving shower in every bathroom.

Rafferty wants the township to spend about $200,000 and become the first municipality in the country to buy control-flow shower heads to give to all its households.

The object, he says, is not to clean up the township. Its to save local households $100 a year each in water and the fuel to heat it - a total savings of $2.6 million - and free up sewer capacity.

The mayor's only fear is that the townspeople will feel like fish out of water with the new gadget - it sprays one-third less liquid than the usual shower head - and not use it.

To convince them, Rafferty organized a month-long test run of the devices. With the support of three local landlords, the township has installed 400 of te fixtures in apartments to see how people take to them.

"We know it will save water. We know it will save energy. It's just a matter of the public reaction," said Hamilton public works director Arthur Julian. "If they won't use, it, it won't save anything."

After the month test, authorities will measure fuel and water savings and poll users before deciding whether to buy more of the devices.

The mayor and the township council are convinced that the showerr stalled in the Hamilton Township's 26,000 households this summer.

"It feels the same," the mayor said in his office as he mimicked the movements of soaping his body while standing under an imaginary water-conserving shower head.

The secret, he said, is that a control-flow shower head eliminates the water that used to "bounce off your body without washing anything away."

The engineering difference between the new shower heads and those currently in use is a restriction inside the new fixture. As when a finger is stuck in a hose nozzle, less water comes out, but it comes out at a faster rate.

The new nozzle sprays about two gallons of water a minute, while the average shower sprays six gallons a minute, more than is needed to do the job, according to Julian. "You only have limited square footage of skin anyway," he said.

He estimates that the new shower heads could cut township water consumption by as much as 650 million gallons a year and cut natural gas use by 816.4 million cubic feet a year.

By reducing the amount of water going down the drain, the township believes it will free enough space in its overworked sewage treatment plant to lift a ban on most new sewer hookups.

Julian says the township could repay its investment in two years if it received added revenue from new sewer service fees and taxes levied on new construction allowed by the lifting of the sewer hookup ban.

If it sounds so good, why hasn't every municipality been adopting the new nozzles?

Some drought-stricken California towns have asked homeowners to purchase the fixtures, but no municipalities have purchased the device for their citizens, according to Julian.

He says that few other municipalities have gotten "the message" about the cost benefits of conserving water and energy. "The era of conspicuous consumption of resources is coming to a rapid end. We just have to start making people equate energy and water with dollars," he said.

Hamilton Township would not force its residents to use the fixtures, and some skeptics here question whether any municipality has the right to tell a citizen what he should use to clean himself.

One local observer speculates that any attempt to bond the $200,000 cost will run up against the complaints of residents who want to keep their bathrooms to themselves - even if it costs them more.