WASHINGTON (AP) _ Last summer, Carole Buckland decided it was time she appeal to Washington for help getting a reliable source of water for her town of Binghamton, N.Y., where some households had too little water to give their children baths.

``I decided to write President Clinton. I thought I would go right to the top,'' Buckland said Monday at the White House, where she attended a ceremony with Vice President Al Gore to announce $155 million in federal loans and grants to help rural areas get drinking water.

``We have a very tragic and desperate problem in our town. We have no water,'' she said with Gore at her side. ``People have to put drain pipes out into the garden to bring water into their wells. People have to collect water in rain buckets so they can brush their teeth.... People have moved from their homes out of our town because they couldn't get any water.''

Thanks to Mrs. Buckland's letter to Clinton, her community is among the recipients of the new federal aid. Binghamton, a town on the New York-Pennsylvania border about 75 miles south of Syracuse, will get $1.3 million to finance a water development project, Gore said. Binghamton is a rural area outside the better known city of Binghamton.

``In too many systems around the country, in rural communities, the drinking water infrastructure is either falling apart or is virtually nonexistent,'' Gore said. ``In too many rural communities, tap water isn't safe water.''

The $155 million in federal loans and grants announced Monday will go to 87 rural communities in 38 states and Puerto Rico. Gore said at least 2.2 million rural Americans live with serious problems in the quality and accessibility of their drinking water. That includes an estimated 730,000 people who have no running water in their homes.