Community and catchment-based approaches to salinity management continue to attract interest inAustralia. In one such approach, Catchment Demonstration Initiative (CDI) projects were established bythe Western Australian (WA) Government in 2000 for targeted investment in large-scale catchmentbaseddemonstrations of integrated salinity management practices. The aimwas to promote a process fortechnically-informed salinity management by landholders. This paper offers an evaluation of the effectivenessof one CDI project in the central wheatbelt of WA, covering issues including: its role in fosteringadoption of salinity management options, the role of research and the technical requirements for designand implementation of on-ground works, the role of monitoring and evaluation, the identification andmeasurement of public and private benefits, comparison and identification of the place and value ofplant-based and engineering-based options, reliance on social processes and impacts of constraints oncapacity, management of governance and administration requirements and an appreciation of the valueof group-based approaches.A number of factors may reduce the effectiveness of CDI-type approaches in facilitating landholder actionto address salinity, many of these are socially-based. Such approaches can create considerable demandson landholders, can be expensive (because of the planning and accountability required) on the basis ofdollars per hectare impacted, and can be difficult to garner ownership from all involved. An additionalproblem could be that few community groups would have the capacity to run such programs anddisseminate the new knowledge so that the CDI-type projects can impact outside the focus catchment. Incommon with many publicly-funded approaches to salinity, we found that direct benefits on publicassets are smaller than planned and that results from science-based requirements of monitoring andevaluation have long lead times, causing farmers to either wait for the information or act sooner and takerisks based on initial results. We also found that often it is a clear outline of the process that is of mostimportance in decision making as opposed to the actual results. We identified limitations in regulatoryprocesses and the capacity for local government to engage in the CDI.The opportunities that CDI-type approaches provide centre around the value of its group-basedapproach. We conclude that they can overcome knowledge constraints in managing salinity by fosteringgroup-based learning, offer a structured process of trialling options so that the costs and benefits can beclearly and transparently quantified, and avoid the costly mistakes and ‘‘learning failures’’ of the past. Crown Copyright © 2009 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.