* Midwestern political leaders are pushing for a fairer shake when it comes to passing out the checks for federal water projects. Few Washington dollars have been approved for such so-called ''pork barrel'' projects since former President Carter tried five years ago to set up standard cost and environmental criteria and drafted a hit list of wasteful projects. But many on Capitol Hill now say that when Congress is ready to take another look at the issue, there will be pressure for a more systematic and equitable funding plan.
This year states in the South and West will net almost three times as many dollars per capita for water projects as states in the Midwest and Northeast. One bill up front for consideration suggests a population and land space formula and would specifically earmark money to repair aging urban water systems. As a spokesman for the Northeast-Midwest Congressional and Senate Coalition explains: ''The relative abundance of water in our region is only meaningful if you can deliver it to the people who need it.''
* Harvest prospects in the Midwest look good - especially for crops in the eastern corn belt, according to the Federal Reserve Board of Chicago's latest economic report. But that fact, coupled with the lack of any expected major pickup in foreign demand for US grains, should keep a downward push on prices. The board forecasts a further slide in farmland values and farm equipment sales.
* The older cities of the Northeast and Midwest will continue to lose people and jobs, according to a new Brookings Institution study of 121 cities. Though insisting that such a trend often becomes self-reinforcing once it starts, the study concludes that the large investment in many downtown areas will effectively keep them from turning into ghost towns. And it singles out some positive developments: the slowdown in migration of the poor to major cities, growth of downtown office space and service jobs, and renovation of old residential neighborhoods.