On the electric side, smart grid is all the rage. Utilities are installing smart meters that can tell customers how much energy they are using in real time and what it will mean for their bill at the end of the month. I expect it will take the water industry a decade or so to catch up.A decade may be right (I've said the same), but there are MANY people/companies coming up with smart water meter ideas. If the number talking to me is any indicator, those smart meters will be on market in the next few years.
Widespread adaption will take longer, of course, but the key driver will be the ease of installation for homeowners. If they can put in smart monitoring devices on their own, then the industry will be driven by early adopters (the 20 percent who "care"). If it's only through (monopoly) utilities, then it will take longer -- mostly because the utilities will believe the "ten years" conventional wisdom and plan accordingly :)
Bottom Line: Our water efficiency -- like all efficiency -- will improve with competition. Smart meters are one great way to bring more of that (and more information!) to a business that's traditionally been very slow to innovate.