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Stream Flow

Stream flow represents the runoff phase of the hydrologic cycle.

When a storm occurs, a portion of rainfall infiltrates into the ground and some portion
may evaporate. The rest flows as a thin sheet of water over the land surface which is termed as
overland flow

If there is a relatively impermeable stratum in the subsoil, the infiltrating

water moves laterally in the surface soil and joins the stream flow, which is termed as underflow
(subsurface flow) or interflow

If there is no impeding layer in the subsoil the infiltrating water percolates into the ground as
deep seepage and builds up the ground water table
(GWT or phreatic surface). The ground water may also contribute to the stream flow, if the
GWT is higher than the water surface level of the stream, creating a hydraulic gradient towards
the stream

Low soil permeability favours overland flow. While all the three types of flow contribute to the
stream flow, it is the overland flow, which reaches first the stream channel, the interflow being
slower reaches after a few hours and the ground water flow being the slowest reaches the
stream channel after some days. The term direct runoff is used to include the overland flow and
the interflow. If the snow melt contributes to the stream flow it can be included with the direct
runoff (from rainfall).

“Stream- can be defined as a flow channel into which the surface runoff from a specified basin

“Streamflow or discharge – is a measurement of the amount of water flowing through a stream

over a fixed period of time. It is the volumetric discharge expressed in volume per unit time
(typically cubic feet per second (ft3/s) or cubic meters per second (m3/s)).

Soo how does water flows from one point to another????

Gravity is the main driver of water.

Gradient – change in elevation with distance

Streams flow downslope from high elevations to low elevations. Near their headwaters slopes
are steeper with higher gradients that may result in streams drops. (Water falls and rapids).
Factors affecting streamflow:

*What happens to the water in a stream channel as it travels down the length of a stream from
its source to its mouth?

Flow Characteristics of a Stream:

Vary travelling from its source to its mouth

So it is by looking on sediment size, flow velocity, channel size, discharge and sediment load.

1. Sediment size and Stream Velocity

Examining the sediment size of a stream, we would see large boulders close to the
headquarters. A mix of sand and gravel farther downstream, and silt and clay producing
muddy waters in the low gradient section of the stream.
This due to Flow velocity.

Based on the characteristics of yearly hydrograph (graphical plot of discharge versus time in
chronological order), one can classify streams into the following three types:

(i) Perennial streams which have some flow, Fig. 2.13, at all times of a year due to
considerable amount of base flow into the stream during dry periods of the year.
The stream bed is, obviously, lower than the ground water table in the adjoining
aquifer (i.e., water bearing strata which is capable of storing and yielding large
quantity of water)
(ii) Intermittent streams have limited contribution from the ground water and that too
during the wet season only when the ground water table is above the stream bed
and, therefore, there is base flow contributing to the stream flow, Fig. 2.14.
Excepting for some occasional storm that can produce short duration flow, such
streams remain dry for most of the dry season periods of a year.
(iii) Ephemeral streams do not have any contribution from the base flow. The annual
hydrograph, Fig. 2.15, of such a stream shows series of short duration hydrographs
indicating flash flows in response to the storm and the stream turning dry soon after
the end of the storm. Such streams, generally found in arid zones, do not have
welldefined channels.
(iv) Streams are also classified as effluent (streams receiving water from ground water
storage). Effluent streams are usually perennial
(v) influent (streams contributing water to the ground water storage) streams. Influent
streams generally remain dry during long periods of dry spell.

“Rivers created much of the landscape we inhabit, they deposited fertile sediment on the
floodplains that we farm and in many places their flowing water provides power to generate
electricity that lights our homes. “

“Streams flow downslope from high elevations to low elevations. Near their headwaters slopes
are steeper with higher gradients that may result in streams dropping several tens of meters
per kilometer. Think about waterfalls and rapids.

Maps show physical features like “rivers”

Stream Order: