Note: If you have mature trees in your lawn, be very careful not to destroy their roots when removing the lawn!
I love Tropical rain forests, old-fashioned flower gardens and cottage gardens -- in fact, the more I work with plants and Design, the more I see the beauty in almost every garden style. But we have to be realistic about our use of water, and come up with creative ways to minimize our use of potable water on our decorative plants.
Natives and Mediterraneans are a great solution, as are cacti and succulents. Using gray water and cisterns are also ways to have the plants we want without using up precious resources. I've experimented with how much water certain plants need once they're established, and I've found that roses, for one, can get by with just a deep soaking once a month after their first couple years in the ground, and still flower profusely!
Saving water takes a reassessment of what we are used to seeing in our front yards. Lawns are wonderful for play and sports, but they often remain unused in front yards. There are lots of wonderful alternatives.