Mow your grass at a higher length (so that it is longer.) While there is some debate about whether this saves much water, scalping the grass off at a low height is definitely not good for the vigor and health of the grass. Longer grass has deeper, stronger roots and is more resistant to disease and drought. Most grass should be mowed to a length of no less than 3 inches.
Dethatch and/or aerate your lawn. Lawn aeration helps assure that the water can penetrate easily into the soil, over time the soil surface can become very compacted and water will not easily penetrate it. Aerating also provides air to the roots of the grass, which is necessary for healthy growth. Thatch build-up on the soil surface under the grass blades can actually repel water.
Reduce the use of fertilizers. Fertilizers encourage rapid growth which results in higher water use. Cut back on fertilizer application amounts to the minimum needed. More frequent application of fertilizer in smaller doses will also help.
Add a layer of mulch to shrub beds. A 2 or 3 inches deep layer of mulch, such as wood chips, bark, almond hulls, or even decorative rock, reduces water use and also reduces the number of weeds.
Reshape your landscape to use less water. Often a minor change can not only refresh and improve the appearance of your landscape, it can also save water. Look around at your yard layout, especially the size and location of lawns. Can you remove or shrink the size of the lawn areas? Lawn uses much more water than the same size area planted in shrubs or groundcover. Does your lawn go right up to the edge of the house or fences? If it does, you can save water and help your house siding and fences to last longer by reducing the size of the lawn so that it is at least 3 to 4 feet away from fences and walls. Irrigation water spraying on the side of a house or fence can cause all kinds of expensive problems. Try creating a curved meandering edge on the lawn area to mimic the look of a meadow; it gives a much more esthetically pleasing look than a straight edge. Then add a foundation planting of low-growing shrubs with drip irrigation between the lawn and the house or fence.
How about replacing old high-water using shrubs with shrubs that are less thirsty? Use of native plants can be particularly water and environmentally friendly, but isn’t necessary to get a water saving landscapeIf you want a small garden area of high water use plants, locate it in a shady area with protection from wind. Even high-water-use plants will use much less water if they are planted in a shady area where they are protected from strong winds.