Any form of agriculture depends on the weather, and you just can't count on it working out the way you want it to.
So far, the weather has been great for us this season. The switching back and forth from rainy to sunny is perfect for the garden, the berry bushes and the fruit trees. We haven't had to water much, but the last few days it has been dark and cloudy, but a couple of drops is all we have been getting. Luckily for us, we live on a well, so water only costs us the electricity it takes to drive the pump.
Water is one of the most important elements to any piece of rural land, and water also determines what options are available to a landowner. Our water is clean and flows easily into the cistern when the compressor is on, coming out cold and fresh.
When we lived in Las Vegas the water from the city had so much chlorine in it that if you filled up the bathtub in the small bathroom, the fumes would hurt your eyes. The price was high. Our place was built in the 'fifties and was on a corner lot with a big lawn. Trying to water it could cost $150 a month. That doesn't include electricity, that was just for the water/sewer/garbage bill.
If you're looking into a place in the country, you should find out if putting in a well is permitted. Some places with water shortages keep raising water costs until people started putting in their own wells. Cities and counties in some places have placed restrictions on new wells, so you should find out if this applies to your place. Even if it has access to a water supply company, you should find out if a well is an option. If the property already has a well, you should have the water tested to make sure it does not contain harmful bacteria or pollutants. Our tests were done through the city offices, and either they or someone in county administration should be able to tell you where to get a test. You should also inspect the well to see how quickly the water is flowing into the cistern. Ours fills up in about an hour, but the pump determines the pressure in the house, the compressor and the volume of water available determines how fast it comes out of the ground. You don't want it to take all day to fill a cistern.
Having some form of flowing water on your property greatly increases the possible uses. Even the small branch that flows through parts of our property could be used to provide water to livestock or be diverted to water crops. Understanding your water rights might very important for future development. Because whatever you do to the water on your property affects the people downstream. Of course, large water supply companies have no problem damming up a flow, but doing it down in your back forty may have you in a feud with a neighbor. Feuds are fun and all, but its hard to develop your property when someone is shooting at you.
During the recent swine flu scare we talked a lot about what would happen if there was a serious pandemic. It would be possible, but not easy and certainly unpleasant, for us to hole up here and survive. Between hunting, gathering, trapping, and raising livestock and crops, we could keep the kids fed even if we couldn't keep the lights on. We don't intend to try this anytime soon, but if we had to we could.