07/28/2014 01:22 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2014

A Brown Lawn Shouldn't Have to Be the New Green

Sian Kennedy via Getty Images

The news of a couple in Glendora whose conscientious use of water resulted in the possibility of their having to pay as much as $500 because their unwatered lawn represented an eyesore -- was received as more embarrassing evidence of our tendency to prioritize appearances over action.

Well, it's easy to target some short-sighted rule in some tangle of enforced community standards -- but you know, I kind of see what they might not like about a brown lawn in the neighborhood.

Imagine a row -- block after block -- of green lawns, with one patch of grayish-brown dirt conspicuous among the pristine lushness. Really: would your first thought be "Wise stewards of our limited resources," or would it be, "Guess that's where you go to buy crack?"

While more than 75 percent of California's dwindling water supply is supporting agriculture, a hefty 25 percent is going towards personal usage, drinking water, nurturing lawns and washing cars.

Now in our third year of record-breaking drought conditions, much of the Golden State's municipalities have "water cops" patrolling the streets looking for "water wasters." A number of people have taken to Twitter with a new phrase of "drought shaming" and neighbors are snitching on violators on their block by calling into local law enforcement.

Sixty days of a decaying brown yard can get you slapped with a hefty 500 dollar ticket. The crisis of homeowners needing relief from their homeowner associations piling even more fines on the water conservationists was severe enough for Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law an exemption from HOA fines for those who are so "green" they want to let their lawns go brown.

Educating Californians on the severity of the drought and offering some tangible remedies is far better than finger pointing and punishing monetary fines. Some fairly straightforward solutions to the problem exist.

Drought-tolerant plants who heartily bask in our blazing sun-drenched days are more conducive to our environment, and require much less water than many other flowering plants. Residents can make their turfs drought-resistant with lawn painting. It might be lacking in glamour and the high-tech novelty, but if it's done properly, an unwatered lawn can actually be made to look quite convincingly glam. Although formulations vary, the dyes involved are fairly harmless.

Reducing water usage when washing cars requires a slight adjustment by using a hose with a shut off valve. There doesn't have to be hysteria and drama to effectively preserve our precious water resources. It just takes one home at a time to make a difference.