Hydrology & Irrigation : Infiltration and Runoff Study Notes

By Deepanshu Rastogi|Updated : November 8th, 2021

Complete coverage of syllabus is very important aspect for any competitive examination but before that important subject and their concept must be covered thoroughly. In this article we are going to discuss the fundamental of Infiltration and Runoff which is very useful for SSC JE and other AE & JE Exams.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


The process of water entering into the soil is called infiltration. Actually, the infiltration occurs on the ground surface plane. Below the surface, the penetration further is called percolation. Whatever rainfall occurs on surface of earth, some quantities infiltrate. 

  • Horton’s Equation:   He observed that the infiltration capacity reduced in an exponential fashion from an initial, maximum rate fcf to a final constant rate fcoHorton expressed the decay of infiltration capacity with time as an exponential decay given by

f = fc + (fo - fc ) e-kt



f = infiltration capacity at any time t from the start of the rainfall

fo = initial infiltration capacity at t = 0

fc = final steady state value

td = Duration of rainfall

kh = constant depending on soil.                                       


Infiltration Indices

In hydrological calculations involving floods, it is found convenient to use a constant value of filtration rate for the duration of the storm. The defined average infiltration rate is called infiltration index. Also this is the average infiltration rate during the time when the rainfall intensity exceeds the infiltration rate.

The W – index can be derived from the observed rainfall and runoff data. It differs from the φ - index in that it excludes surface storage and retention.

(i) W-index:

In an attempt to refine the φ-index the initial losses are separated from the total abstractions and an average value of infiltration rate, called W-index, is defined as


Where, P = Total storm precipitation (cm)

R = Total storm runoff (cm)

Ia = initial losses (cm)

te = Duration of rainfall excess

W-index = Avg. rate of infiltration (cm/hr)

(ii) φ-index:

The φ index is the average rainfall above which the rainfall volumes is equal to the runoff volume. The φ index is derived from the rainfall hyetograph with the edge of the resulting run- off volume.

 φ-index = (I-R)/24


R = Runoff in cm from a 24- h rainfall of intensity I cm/day


Runoff can be described as the part of the water cycle that flows over land as surface water instead of being absorbed into groundwater or evaporating. It thus represents the output from the catchment in a given unit of time.

There are a variety of factors that affect runoff. Some of those include:

1. Amount of Rainfall

2. Permeability

3. Vegetation

4. Slope

Direct Runoff 

The part of runoff which enters the stream quickly after the rainfall or snow melting. To design soil conservation structure with proper capacity it is necessary to estimate peak runoff rate.

It includes surface runoff, prompt interflow and rainfall on the surface of the stream. In the case of snow-melt, the resulting flow entering the stream is also a direct runoff, sometimes terms such as direct storm runoff are used to designate direct runoff.

Base Flow

Baseflow (also called drought flow, groundwater recession flow, low flow, low-water flow, low-water discharge and sustained or fair-weather runoff) is the portion of streamflow that comes from "the sum of deep subsurface flow and delayed shallow subsurface flow. Also, it is the delayed flow that reaches a stream essentially as groundwater flow is called base flow.

(i) Direct runoff = surface runoff + Prompt interflow

(ii) Direct runoff = Total runoff- Base flow

(iii) Form Factor image006 where, A = Area of the catchment l Axial length of basin.

(iv) Compactness coefficient image007

re = Radius of an equivalent circle whose Area is equal to area of the catchment (A)

(v) Elevation of the water shed, (z)


Where, A1A2 … Area between successive contours.

Z1, z2 … mean elevation between two successive contours.

Methods to Compute Runoff

(i) By Runoff coefficient

Q = KP where, p = precipitation

K = Runoff coefficient

Q = Runoff

(ii) By infiltration Capacity Curve


(iii) By Rational Formula


Where, k = Runoff coefficient

PC = Critical design rainfall intensity in cm/hr

A = Area of catchment in the hectare

Qp = Peak discharge in m3/sec.

You can avail of BYJU’S Exam Prep Online classroom program for all AE & JE Exams:

BYJU’S Exam Prep Online Classroom Program for AE & JE Exams (12+ Structured LIVE Courses)

You can avail of BYJU’S Exam Prep Test series specially designed for all AE & JE Exams:

BYJU’S Exam Prep Test Series AE & JE Get Unlimited Access to all (160+ Mock Tests)


Team BYJU’S Exam Prep

Download  BYJU’S Exam Prep APP, for the best Exam Preparation, Free Mock tests, Live Classes.


write a comment

AE & JE Exams


Follow us for latest updates