Skip to main content

Overland Flow

  • Reference work entry
  • First Online:
Encyclopedia of Agrophysics

Part of the book series: Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series ((EESS))


Hortonian overland flow; Infiltration excess overland flow; Saturation excess overland flow; Surface runoff


Overland flow is the movement of water over the land, downslope toward a surface water body.

Overland flow is a very important aspect of the water cycle and can be generated under two different physical mechanisms. The infiltration excess overland flow is formed (named also Hortonian overland flow after Horton E. R.), when the rainfall intensity exceeds the soil infiltration capacity in an area (Liu et al., 2004). Then water accumulates on the soil and starts moving downslope, due to gravity, towards the hydrographic network. The second mechanism occurs when the soil saturation exceeds its maximum level due to groundwater uplifting, baseflow, and lateral subsurface water discharges, resulting in the appearance of saturation excess overland flow (Beven, 2001).

Factors such as soil permeability, topographic slope, and type and density of vegetation affect the...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions


  • Beven, J. K., 2001. Rainfall – Runoff Modeling. England: Wiley, p. 360.

    Google Scholar 

  • Liu, Q. Q., Chen, L., Li, J. C., and Singh, V. P., 2004. Two-dimensional kinematic wave model of overland-flow. Journal of Hydrology, 291, 28–41.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elias Dimitriou .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

About this entry

Cite this entry

Dimitriou, E. (2011). Overland Flow. In: Gliński, J., Horabik, J., Lipiec, J. (eds) Encyclopedia of Agrophysics. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series. Springer, Dordrecht.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics