Decide if you want a completely waterless yard with stone and small rocks, or a yard with a few plants. Most yards need at least a few plants. Desert plants use a small amount of water and can be watered with a drip system.
Install a water-drip emitter hose system. These drip irrigation systems are available at most hardware stores and they can be installed on the surface of the soil in just a few minutes. The system consists of a large poly tube carries the water to the garden where it is then reduced to narrow the drip tubing, which waters trees and plant with a few emitters each. Systems can be put on timers as well.
Dig holes sized for the root ball of each plant at the emitters, adjusting the drip system as needed. Ensure there are multiple emitters for trees and shrubs. Focus on plants native to the area for the best results, and most natural effect. Some appropriate choices include cacti, Joshua tree, yucca, blanket flower, yarrow, buckwheat, sage, Arizona poppies, lantana, acacia and many palms. Native plants should not require additional soil amendments to thrive.
Load up your wheelbarrow with pea gravel. Lightly cover the emitter system. Apply gravel around the plantings as a mulch as well.
Extend gravel areas throughout the yard, in lieu of water-hungry grass, adding paver pathways and large, decorative boulders and rocks for interest.