Low water landscaping-- alternative to grass as a play area?
Hi all. Im new here and dont know much about landscaping, but I live in Southern CA (San Fernando Valley) and would like to relandscape our yard using plants that require minimal water. We currently have a fully (although badly) landscaped half acre in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Valley gets very hot in the summer and we have a HUGE water bill from our lovely Department of Water and Power (and scheduled for another rate hike).
I have seen several yards in my area which I believe possess desert-like plants and it would look beautiful with the style of our house. However, we have a large lawn in the back half of our property which is in full sun all the time, uses tons of water and never looks very good. We have three small children and are hesitant to do away with an open lawn-type of space. Is there an alternative?
If anyone can point me in the right direction either in these forums, a book or even a landscape designer that can help me, I would appreciate it.