The new Authority replaces the toothless Murray Darling Basin Commission, and will be able to make decisions on water allocations for the river system.
The MDB is the food-bowl of south east Australia, and a dramatic fall in runoff over the past five years had left the water in the river seriously overallocated, to the point that the river has not reached the sea for some time.
The management of the river system is a case study for future conflicts over water. It flows through the states of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, and each state was essentially taking what they wanted from the river, and leaving little water for those at the end of the system. The federal government eventually stepped in to create an Authority that can overrule state power, but many would say that the river system is already beyond saving.
If the Australian states were independent countried, without the presence of an arbitrating federal government, it seems quite plausible that the situation could have ended in military conflict, and it signals a grim future if climate change starts to seriously impact runoff going into rivers like the Mekong.