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National Dryland Salinity Program

1993 - 2004

Between 1993 and 2004 the National Dryland Salinity Program (NDSP) provided a national forum for exchange of knowledge, building links and providing government, communities and individuals with the information and technology required to manage dryland salinity in Australia.

The main findings from this program are available in Breaking Ground - Key Findings from 10 years of Australia’s National Dryland Salinity Program

About NDSP

A decade of NDSP research has provided many answers, but also demonstrates that there is still much to be done if we are to confidently identify the best management strategies for salinity in diverse situations. Tension still exists between farm and catchment-scale outcomes given conflicting national cost/benefit decisions made in respect to the options available at the respective scales. Over the period of this research the focus has shifted from salinity as largely an issue for agriculture, to an increasing awareness of the impact on infrastructure.

While the research has given us valuable insights into the causes and the impacts, practical and economic solutions are still elusive and their effects may not be felt for decades. This highlights the importance of integrating salinity management with other natural resource management strategies, but also points to the likelihood that in some cases we will have to live with salinity and we need to find ways to make that practical and acceptable.

In the light of this research, added to that of the first phase, six key messages emerge to guide our future response to salinity:

  1. Salinity costs are significant and rising, hence responses must be strategic.
  2. Profitable options for reversing the trend are lacking, but under development.
  3. There is no one salinity problem: It challenges us to look beyond traditional policy instruments.
  4. Integrated catchment management must be seen as only one approach to deal with dryland salinity.
  5. Vegetation management remains the key to managing water resources, although the benefit:cost ratio of re-vegetating catchments requires careful analysis.
  6. Lack of capacity is an important, but secondary constraint to managing salinity.

Many R&D priorities are identified in the Breaking Ground report, but the highest priorities are:

  1. Developing profitable industry solutions: so that economically, environmentally and socially feasible options are in the hands of those managing the vast majority of Australian landscapes; and
  2. Reconciling farm and catchment decision trade-offs: so that the potential conflicts in rational decisions at one scale with rationale decisions at another are minimised.

More information

Visit the National Dryland Salinity Program website.


Phase one (1993 - 1998) dramatically improved the level of coordination amongst researchers and has established much stronger linkages between community groups and the research community.

Phase two (1998 - 2003) of the Program continued to identify and research the knowledge gaps in our understanding of the causes and impacts of dryland salinity, with a strong focus on developing practical, profitable and sustainable solutions. The final year of the NDSP (2003-2004) was dedicated to harvesting the knowledge generated by the 50 or more research projects within the program and making it available to the diverse range of stakeholders.

Program partners

The National Dryland Salinity Program (NDSP) was initiated by Land & Water Australia, managed and supported by a consortium of organisations from around the country:

  • Land & Water Australia
  • Grains Research & Development Corporation
  • National Land & Water Resources Audit
  • Murray Darling Basin Commission
  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  • Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation
  • Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation
  • State Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia 
  • Land, Water & Wool
  • Meat & Livestock Australia

Each of these organisations contributed financially and/or through the provision of research or other in-kind services to the program.
Related initiatives:

  • National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality
  • Co-operative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity
  • Joint Venture Agroforestry Program


id: 3425 / created: 27 May, 2009 / last updated: 20 August, 2009