REGION - During the mid-2000s, Lake Albacutya farmer Peter Gosling was so desperate for water for his sheep that he and his sons Ben and Andy would pump it out of puddles left by rain showers.
The third generation sheep and cropping farmer has lived through many droughts, but none quite as desperate as the longest drought on record where they almost ran out of water.
As well as drought, Peter has also lived through many floods and expresses his deep connection with the Wimmera landscape in song. Ben and Andy, also songwriters, are continuing the tradition, playing regular gigs as The Lazy Farmer's Sons and recording several albums.
When Peter shared his story for the 2011 publication "For Life - how we got the water back", a book about the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Project, he said he closely followed the campaign for piping because of his concern for the Wimmera River.
He said he had a strong realisation about 25 years earlier that although the open channel system was essential for the survival of farms and towns - it was taking 'a heck of a toll' on the lower reaches of the Wimmera River system.
"For me, even though I knew my farm would benefit from the pipeline, I was more concerned about seeing the river system return to what it used to be and I saw the pipeline project as the only way to achieve this," Peter said.
"I didn't take an active role in the campaigning or the lobbying, but I sure did write a lot of songs about it!"
There are about six songs he's written specifically on the Wimmera River, with Peter's favourite being "Albacutya's Crying."
When five Wimmera walkers covered the full 350-kilometre stretch of the Wimmera River during March 2007 over a 15-day adventure called 'Mountains to Mallee' Peter walked the first leg from the start of the river to Elmhurst.
Having grown up at the opposite end of the system, he said he had always been fascinated with where the river began.
The walk was also a chance for him to share river memories with others both on the walk and through Wimmera Catchment Management Authority's 'Getting to know the Wimmera River' newspaper feature that followed their journey.
Peter's story in the feature was about the other extreme - floods.
He recalled the 1974 flood when the Wimmera River overflowed into Lake Hindmarsh which overflowed into Outlet Creek and headed to Lake Albacutya.
Peter said many people opted for the romantic notion of canoeing from Hindmarsh to Albacutya but he, who was then in his 20s, and his mates decided on an aluminium boat, complete with three Fosters'-laden Eskies.
"We were literally in the middle of paddocks, so we had to jump out occasionally to open gates. One of my mates got out one side of the boat, we went through and then he tried to get in the other side of the boat. But he disappeared in about 12 feet of water! That's how flooded it was."
Wimmera CMA chief executive David Brennan said stories of extremes were common when you spoke to people who had lived in the region all their lives.
"Just as there will be more droughts, there will be more floods, and the Wimmera people and this environment will be forced to adapt to fit the conditions time and time again," Mr Brennan said.
"As a community, it is important we understand how to look after the river system under these constantly-changing conditions.
"The combination of government investment and community ownership ensures we can maintain a healthy and sustainable river for the next generations."
This article was prepared as part of 'The Wimmera's Flowing Tale', a Wimmera CMA series that puts the spotlight on the Wimmera River and the environmental water releases that help sustain its health.