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runoff

in hydrology, quantity of water discharged in surface streams. Runoff includes not only the waters that travel over the land surface and through channels to reach a stream but also interflow, the water that infiltrates the soil surface and travels by means of gravity toward a stream channel (always above the main groundwater level) and eventually empties into the channel. Runoff also includes groundwater that is discharged into a stream; streamflow that is composed entirely of groundwater is termed base flow, or fair-weather runoff, and it occurs where a stream channel intersects the water table.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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