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In hydrology, interflow is the lateral movement of water in the unsaturated zone, or vadose zone, that first returns to the surface or enters a stream prior to becoming groundwater. [1] Interflow is sometimes used interchangeably with throughflow; [1] however, throughflow is specifically the subcomponent of interflow that returns to the surface, as overland flow, prior to entering a stream or becoming groundwater. [2] Interflow occurs when water infiltrates (see infiltration (hydrology)) into the subsurface, hydraulic conductivity decreases with depth, and lateral flow proceeds downslope. [1] As water accumulates in the subsurface, saturation may occur, and interflow may exfiltrate as return flows, becoming overland flow. [1]

Hydrology The science of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets

Hydrology is the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability. A practitioner of hydrology is a hydrologist, working within the fields of earth or environmental science, physical geography, geology or civil and environmental engineering. Using various analytical methods and scientific techniques, they collect and analyze data to help solve water related problems such as environmental preservation, natural disasters, and water management.

Water chemical compound

Water is a transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's streams, lakes, and oceans, and the fluids of most living organisms. It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Its chemical formula is H2O, meaning that each of its molecules contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, connected by covalent bonds. Water is the name of the liquid state of H2O at standard ambient temperature and pressure. It forms precipitation in the form of rain and aerosols in the form of fog. Clouds are formed from suspended droplets of water and ice, its solid state. When finely divided, crystalline ice may precipitate in the form of snow. The gaseous state of water is steam or water vapor. Water moves continually through the water cycle of evaporation, transpiration (evapotranspiration), condensation, precipitation, and runoff, usually reaching the sea.

Vadose zone The unsaturated aquifer above the water table

The vadose zone, also termed the unsaturated zone, is the part of Earth between the land surface and the top of the phreatic zone, the position at which the groundwater is at atmospheric pressure. Hence, the vadose zone extends from the top of the ground surface to the water table.

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Aquifer Underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock

An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials. Groundwater can be extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology. Related terms include aquitard, which is a bed of low permeability along an aquifer, and aquiclude, which is a solid, impermeable area underlying or overlying an aquifer. If the impermeable area overlies the aquifer, pressure could cause it to become a confined aquifer.

Groundwater water located beneath the ground surface

Groundwater is the water present beneath Earth's surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock become completely saturated with water is called the water table. Groundwater is recharged from and eventually flows to the surface naturally; natural discharge often occurs at springs and seeps, and can form oases or wetlands. Groundwater is also often withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, and industrial use by constructing and operating extraction wells. The study of the distribution and movement of groundwater is hydrogeology, also called groundwater hydrology.

Surface-water hydrology is the sub-field of hydrology concerned with above-earth water, in contrast to groundwater hydrology that deals with water below the surface of the Earth. Its applications include rainfall and runoff, the routes that surface water takes, and the occurrence of floods and droughts. Surface-water hydrology is used to predict the effects of water constructions such as dams and canals. It considers the layout of the watershed, geology, soils, vegetation, nutrients, energy and wildlife. Modelled aspects include precipitation, the interception of rain water by vegetation or artificial structures, evaporation, the runoff function and the soil-surface system itself.

In water-related science and engineering, there are two similar but distinct definitions in use for the word drawdown:

Isotope hydrology is a field of hydrology that uses isotopic dating to estimate the age and origins of water and of movement within the hydrologic cycle. The techniques are used for water-use policy, mapping aquifers, conserving water supplies, and controlling pollution. It replaces or supplements past methods of measuring rain, river levels and other bodies of water over many decades.

The hyporheic zone is the region of sediment and porous space beneath and alongside a stream bed, where there is mixing of shallow groundwater and surface water. The flow dynamics and behavior in this zone is recognized to be important for surface water/groundwater interactions, as well as fish spawning, among other processes. As an innovative urban water management practice, the hyporheic zone can be designed by engineers and actively managed for improvements in both water quality and riparian habitat.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Storm Water Management Model is a dynamic rainfall–runoff–subsurface runoff simulation model used for single-event to long-term (continuous) simulation of the surface/subsurface hydrology quantity and quality from primarily urban/suburban areas. It can simulate the Rainfall- runoff, runoff, evaporation, infiltration and groundwater connection for roots, streets, grassed areas, rain gardens and ditches and pipes, for example. The hydrology component of SWMM operates on a collection of subcatchment areas divided into impervious and pervious areas with and without depression storage to predict runoff and pollutant loads from precipitation, evaporation and infiltration losses from each of the subcatchment. Besides, low impact development (LID) and best management practice areas on the subcatchment can be modeled to reduce the impervious and pervious runoff. The routing or hydraulics section of SWMM transports this water and possible associated water quality constituents through a system of closed pipes, open channels, storage/treatment devices, ponds, storages, pumps, orifices, weirs, outlets, outfalls and other regulators. SWMM tracks the quantity and quality of the flow generated within each subcatchment, and the flow rate, flow depth, and quality of water in each pipe and channel during a simulation period composed of multiple fixed or variable time steps. The water quality constituents such as water quality constituents can be simulated from buildup on the subcatchments through washoff to a hydraulic network with optional first order decay and linked pollutant removal, best management practice and low-impact development removal and treatment can be simulated at selected storage nodes. SWMM is one of the hydrology transport models which the EPA and other agencies have applied widely throughout North America and through consultants and universities throughout the world. The latest update notes and new features can be found on the EPA website in the download section. Recently added in November 2015 were the EPA SWMM 5.1 Hydrology Manual and in 2016 the EPA SWMM 5.1 Hydraulic Manual and EPA SWMM 5.1 Water Quality Volume (III) + Errata

Surface runoff The flow of excess stormwater, meltwater, or water from other sources over the Earths surface

Surface runoff is the flow of water that occurs when excess stormwater, meltwater, or other sources flows over the Earth's surface. This might occur because soil is saturated to full capacity, because rain arrives more quickly than soil can absorb it, or because impervious areas send their runoff to surrounding soil that cannot absorb all of it. Surface runoff is a major component of the water cycle. It is the primary agent in soil erosion by water.


In hydrology, throughflow, a subcomponent of interflow, is the lateral unsaturated flow of water in the soil zone, where a highly permeable geologic unit overlays a less permeable geologic unit, and which returns to the surface, as return flow, prior to entering a stream or groundwater. Once water infiltrates into the soil, it is still affected by gravity and either infiltrates to the water table or travels downslope. Throughflow usually occurs during peak hydrologic events, and flow rates are dependent on the hydraulic conductivity of the geologic medium.

Streamflow, or channel runoff, is the flow of water in streams, rivers, and other channels, and is a major element of the water cycle. It is one component of the runoff of water from the land to waterbodies, the other component being surface runoff. Water flowing in channels comes from surface runoff from adjacent hillslopes, from groundwater flow out of the ground, and from water discharged from pipes. The discharge of water flowing in a channel is measured using stream gauges or can be estimated by the Manning equation. The record of flow over time is called a hydrograph. Flooding occurs when the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the channel.

Baseflow is the portion of the streamflow that is sustained between precipitation events, fed to streams by delayed pathways. Baseflow is the portion of streamflow delayed shallow subsurface flow". It should not be confused with groundwater flow. Fair weather flow is called as Base flow.

Hydrological transport model

An hydrological transport model is a mathematical model used to simulate river or stream flow and calculate water quality parameters. These models generally came into use in the 1960s and 1970s when demand for numerical forecasting of water quality was driven by environmental legislation, and at a similar time widespread access to significant computer power became available. Much of the original model development took place in the United States and United Kingdom, but today these models are refined and used worldwide.

Groundwater recharge groundwater that recharges an aquifer

Groundwater recharge or deep drainage or deep percolation is a hydrologic process, where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater. Recharge is the primary method through which water enters an aquifer. This process usually occurs in the vadose zone below plant roots and, is often expressed as a flux to the water table surface. Groundwater recharge also encompasses water moving away from the water table farther into the saturated zone. Recharge occurs both naturally and through anthropogenic processes, where rainwater and or reclaimed water is routed to the subsurface.

Subsurface flow, in hydrology, is the flow of water beneath earth's surface as part of the water cycle.

Groundwater models are computer models of groundwater flow systems, and are used by hydrogeologists. Groundwater models are used to simulate and predict aquifer conditions.

Hydrology (agriculture) study of water balance components intervening in agricultural water management, especially in irrigation and drainage

Agricultural hydrology is the study of water balance components intervening in agricultural water management, especially in irrigation and drainage.

GSSHA is a two-dimensional, physically based watershed model developed by the Engineer Research and Development Center of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It simulates surface water and groundwater hydrology, erosion and sediment transport. The GSSHA model is used for hydraulic engineering and research, and is on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) list of hydrologic models accepted for use in the national flood insurance program for flood hydrograph estimation. Input is best prepared by the Watershed Modeling System interface, which effectively links the model with geographic information systems (GIS).

Catchment hydrology, is the study of the hydrology in drainage basins.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Ward, A.; Trimble, S. (2004). Environmental Hydrology. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 122. ISBN   1566706165.
  2. Fetter, C. (2001). Applied Hydrogeology. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p. 41. ISBN   0130882399.