Upington can best be described as a bustling Kalahari town and indeed an emerald oasis on the banks of South Africa=s largest river with a population of approximately 60 000. It is both a holiday town with all the amenities required for the many tourists who stay in Upington as well as an agricultural hub for one of the most intensive sultana grape farming areas in the country.

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The town was established in the 1870's when the Reverend Christiaan Schroder was sent from Capetown to establish a mission at the request of the Hottentot chieftain, Klaas Lucas who realised the importance of being able to read and write. Shortly after the establishment of the Mission, various pioneer settlers including Japie Lutz and the Reverend Schroder realised that the area was ideal for irrigation development and the first irrigation canals were hand-dug in 1880 - some of which are still in use today. Since then, Upington grew rapidly and became the main commercial, agricultural and educational centre of the Gordonia District. Today, Upington is the Provincial Capital for the Northern Cape Province and as such has taken on a new and important role in the development of the whole region.

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The economy of Upington relies heavily on agriculture, tourism and the services industry. Many large companies dealing with wines, table grapes, dried fruit and livestock farming have their head offices in Upington. All major South African banks are represented in Upington and numerous shops and retail outlets cater for most needs.

Most roads to and from Upington are tarred and of good quality although there are untarred roads for the more adventurous and those wishing to test their four-wheeled drive vehicles. The Upington airport boasts three runways, one of which is the longest tarred runway in the Southern Hemisphere at 4 900 m long. Jumbo jets frequently land at Upington during the months of November and December to export top quality seedless table grapes to Europe where they fetch very high prices especially during a short three to four week period during which the South African table grapes are the only grapes available worldwide.

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Many major car manufacturers bring their cars and commercial vehicles to Upington to test them in the hot dry and sunny conditions. There are very few places in the world where the desert conditions experienced in Upington are accompanied by many thousands of kilometers of tarred roads and the necessary support facilities in the form of service centres, qualified mechanics and airport facilities. There is even a large test circuit near Upington where cars can be driven continuously under test conditions to evaluate performance in a controlled environment.

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The town is a popular overnight stop for many visitors travelling between Johannesburg, Capetown and Windhoek since it is located 800 km, 900 km and 970 km from theses three cities respectively. It is located in an arid sandy region of South Africa with an average annual rainfall of less than 200 mm and a potential evaporation in excess of 2 500 mm per annum. Despite these desert characteristics, the town boasts many beautiful gardens with impressive rose beds and graceful trees. The town is well kept and the air of cleanliness and stark contrasts in vegetation are some of the features that encourage visitors to return regularly to the area year after year. The town itself has a wide variety of accommodation, restaurants, conference facilities and impressive sporting facilities including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, 18-hole golf course, squash courts and various river based water sports.

The town abstracts its water directly from the Orange River and uses approximately 12 million m3 per annum making it by far the largest domestic consumer of Orange River water downstream of the Vanderkloof Dam. Effluent from the treatment works is evaporated from large evaporation ponds and no water is returned to the Orange River thus preventing possible pollution hazards to downstream users.