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Runoff is generated by rainstorms and its occurrence and quantity are dependent
on the characteristics of the rainfall event, i.e. intensity, duration and distr
Surface runoffis the water flow that occurs when thesoilisinfiltratedto full capacity
and excesswaterfromrain,meltwater, or other sources flows over the land.
Storm runoff is the amount of water in the soil prior to the rain event, also kn
own as antecedent soil moisture plays a significant role in determining runoff vol
Runoff occurs in natural catchments when soil becomes saturated due to previous
rainfall or as a result of impervious surfaces in urban areas.
The amount of water in the soil prior to the rain event, also known as anteceden
t soil moisture plays a significant role in determining runoff volume.
Runoff volumes have dramatically increased due to urbanization
Infiltration excess overland flow
This occurs when the rate ofrainfallon a surface exceeds the rate at which water c
aninfiltratethe ground, and any depression storage has already been filled.
Saturation excess overland flow
When thesoilis saturated and the depression storage filled, and rain continues to
fall, the rainfall will immediately produce surface runoff. The level of anteced
ent soil moisture is one factor affecting the time until soil becomes saturated.
This runoff is called saturation excess overland flow or saturated overland flo
Antecedent soil moisture
Soil retains a degree of moisture after arainfall. This residual water moisture a
ffects the soil'sinfiltration capacity. During the next rainfall event, the infil
tration capacity will cause the soil to be saturated at a different rate. The hi
gher the level of antecedent soil moisture, the more quickly the soil becomes sa
turated. Once the soil is saturated, runoff occurs.
Subsurface return flow
After water infiltrates the soil on an up-slope portion of a hill, the water may
flow laterally through the soil, and exfiltrate (flow out of the soil) closer t
o a channel. This is called subsurface return flow orthroughflow.
Hydrologic soil groups are based on estimates of runoff potential. Soils are ass
igned to one of four groups according to the rate of water infiltration when the
soils are not protected by vegetation, are thoroughly wet, and receive precipit
ation from long-duration storms.
Group A. Soils having a high infiltration rate (low runoff potential) when thoro
ughly wet.
These consist mainly of deep, well drained to excessively drained sands or grave
lly sands. These soils have a high rate of water transmission.
Group B. Soils having a moderate infiltration rate when thoroughly wet. These co
nsist chiefly of moderately deep or deep, moderately well drained or well draine
d soils that have moderately fine texture to moderately coarse texture. These so
ils have a moderate rate of water transmission.
Group C. Soils having a slow infiltration rate when thoroughly wet. These consis
t chiefly of soils having a layer that impedes the downward movement of water or
soils of moderately fine texture or fine texture. These soils have a slow rate
of water transmission.
Group D. Soils having a very slow infiltration rate (high runoff potential) whe
n thoroughly wet. These consist chiefly of clays that have a high shrink-swell p
otential, soils that have a high water table, soils that have a clay pan or clay
layer at or near the surface, and soils that are shallow over nearly impervious
material. These soils have a very slow rate of water transmission.
Soil type
The infiltration capacity is among others dependent on the porosity of a soil wh
ich determines the water storage capacity and affects the resistance of water to
flow into deeper layers.
Porosity differs from one soil type to the other. The highest infiltration capac
ities are observed in loose, sandy soils while heavy clay or loamy soils have co
nsiderable smaller infiltration capacities.
The infiltration capacity depends furthermore on the moisture content prevailing
in a soil at the onset of a rainstorm.
The initial high capacity decreases with time (provided the rain does not stop)
until it reaches a constant value as the soil profile becomes saturated
The amount of rain lost to interception storage on the foliage depends on the ki
nd of vegetation and its growth stage. Values of interception are between 1 and
4 mm. A cereal crop, for example, has a smaller storage capacity than a dense gr
ass cover.
More significant is the effect the vegetation has on the infiltration capacity o
f the soil. A dense vegetation cover shields the soil from the raindrop impact a
nd reduces the crusting effect as described earlier.
In addition, the root system as well as organic matter in the soil increase the
soil porosity thus allowing more water to infiltrate. Vegetation also retards th
e surface flow particularly on gentle slopes, giving the water more time to infi
ltrate and to evaporate.
In conclusion, an area densely covered with vegetation, yields less runoff than
bare ground.

Slope and catchment size
Investigations on experimental runoff plots have shown that steep slope plots yi
eld more runoff than those with gentle slopes.
In addition, it was observed that the quantity of runoff decreased with increasi
ng slope length.
This is mainly due to lower flow velocities and subsequently a longer time of co
ncentration (defined as the time needed for a drop of water to reach the outlet
of a catchment from the most remote location in the catchment). This means that
the water is exposed for a longer duration to infiltration and evaporation befor
e it reaches the measuring point. The same applies when catchment areas of diffe
rent sizes are compared.
Antecedent soil moisture index (SMI)
Relative value that describes preceding moisture conditions with higher values c
orresponding to soil saturation.
Basin evaporation (Potential Evapotranspiration)
Define as the amount of evaporation that would occur if a sufficient water sourc
e were available.
Antecedent precipitation index
Higher performance in runoff calculations obtained by inclusion of Antecedent M
oisture Index (API) for particular catchment area
The index is a weighted summation or running tally of daily precipitation amoun
ts and their impact on soil moisture content calculated for each pixel
API assumes natural drainage with evapotranspiration continuously reducing soil
moisture at a logarithmically decreasing rate over time
I_t=I_o K^t
I_t = Antecedent Precipitation Index on day t
I_o = Antecedent Precipitation Index at the beginning of calculation p
K = Decay constant between 0.85-0.95 indicating rate or reduction of
soil wetness
t = time in days since last rainfall
Generating API for any given day is obtained through keeping running calculatio
n in which the previous days value is multiplied by k.
The impact of a rain event on soil moisture exponentially decreases after the e
Day 0 = I_o
Day 1 = I_o K^1
Day 2 = I_o K^2, and so on
Once rain occurs again amount of rain is added to the index and t is set equal
to zero again.
Sample problem with regards to the computation of API:
Calculate API with four rain events occurring over a 15-day period considering
that you have an API equal to 30 in. at the beginning of your calculation (K=
0.90). The rain fell on the 3rd, 7th, 11th, 14th day of the period with rainfall
intensity of 1.6 in., 2.2 in., 1.9 in., 0.5 in. respectively.
I_t=I_o K^t
Day 0
Set your t=0.
I_0=30 in.
Day 1
Set t=1
I_1=27 in.
Day 2
Set your t=2.
I_2=24.3 in.
Day 3
Set your t=3.
I_3= 21.9 in.
I_3+1.6 in
I_3=23.5 in.
Day 4
Set your t=1.
I_o=23.5 in.
I_4=21.2 in
Day 5
Set your t=2.
I_5= 19.1 in.
And so on
Relation of AMC to SCSR CN method
Soil Conservation Service Runoff Curve Number (CN) is one of the methods in cal
culating total runoff, and is currently the most appropriate and authentic numer
ical model used by soil scientist.
The Curve Number (CN) is determined by major factors including hydrologic soil
group, cover type, treatment, hydrologic conditions, and antecedent runoff condi