As the drought continues, Californians are stepping up to conserve water, and collectively exceeded Gov. Brown's 25 percent reduction mandate in June 2015. Nonetheless, water-intensive lawns and other hallmarks of an English garden-style landscape still remain a huge draw on our state’s dwindling water supply.

Outdoor watering accounts for about half of residential water use in urban areas, and up to 80 percent in hot, dry inland areas. Reducing outdoor water use is a key focus of state conservation enforcement efforts, particularly in areas of the state that failed to meet the emergency water conservation mandate. Research from the Pacific Institute suggests that Californians could reduce outdoor water use by 70 percent by landscaping with low water-use plants, saving water and money.

California Coastkeeper Alliance and California Waterkeepers are joining forces with Blue Business Council Members and 1% For The Planet to counter the notion that conserving water means brown lawns, bare gravel and spiky cacti. The groups’ Drought without the Drab campaign celebrates California’s beautiful native plants, and other plants that naturally thrive in our arid climate by highlighting water wise landscapes that are green and vibrant, from upscale hotels to corporate headquarters. Businesses throughout California have embraced native plants and other water wise landscaping and are sharing #DroughtNotDrab images celebrating the beauty of their low-water gardens.

The groups are promoting the campaign with the help of a new drought mascot, the water-wise California bear. A custom art print by San Francisco-artists 3 Fish Studios features the iconic image of the bear embracing California, surrounded by succulents, flowering fuschia, the California poppy and other native plants that thrive in California.

California Waterkeeper organizations are working with businesses to create landscapes that are both beautiful and beneficial for the local environment. Russian Riverkeeper worked with h2 Hotel to select plants that thrive naturally and promote a healthy river habitat. Riverkeeper’s Stewardship Park in Guerneville demonstrates ecological features of healthy river habitat. In Southern California, the 2.5 acre Orange County Coastkeeper demonstration garden offers a SmartScape program to help businesses and residents transition to drought-tolerant landscaping and lower water use by identifying financial incentives, design, installation and long-term maintenance options.

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Check out these inspiring images of #DroughtNotDrab:

The garden at Clif Bar’s Emeryville headquarters is adorned with California native and other low-water plants, including Leucodendrons, Blue Fescue, Orange Sedge, King Protea, Hot lips Sage, Boston Ivy and Parrots Beak. Photo credit: Sara Aminzadeh

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Living Roof at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco captures 100% of excess storm water, preventing runoff from carrying pollutants into the ecosystem. The roof's seven hills mirror those of San Francisco and are lined with 50,000 porous, biodegradable vegetation trays made from tree sap and coconut husks. An estimated 1.7 million plants fill the trays and native plants such as beach strawberry and California fuchsia provide much-needed habitat and food for birds, bees, and butterflies—adding up to the densest concentration of native wildflowers in San Francisco. Photo credit: Tim Griffith

The Greenway Building in Arcata is built on a former mill site and now includes bio-retention wetlands, native plants and trees and a garden that is the centerpiece of the property. The .25 acre garden replayed a gopher filled, corporate campus lawn and now draws tenants outside and provides wildlife habitat for birds and small mammals. Photo credit: Jen Savage

UC San Diego has planted low-water-use, native, and drought-tolerant plants in 75% of the irrigated campus landscape and 30 percent of campus irrigation is with recycled water. The campus is in the process of converting 128,000 square feet of turf to drought tolerant groundcover. Photo credit: University of California, San Diego

Through Orange County Coastkeeper's Smartscape Programs, Southern California Edison's Villa Park Substation removed 3 acres of turf grass and replaced with drought-tolerant, environmentally friendly landscaping, including Firecracker Sage, Manzanita, Buckwheat and California Flannel Bush. Photo credit: Orange County Coastkeeper

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