Design flood estimation in ungauged catchments is of great importance in hydrologic practice especially where there is no available data about streamflow. Except the watershed of Anseghmir who is equipped with a gauge station, all the other watersheds are ungauged catchments. The use of frequency analysis of series of rainfall and streamflow is very important for the characterization of the hydrologic resources of the Upper Moulouya. The region has a semiarid climate that requires a good knowledge of the watershed's potential water to assist policy makers in forecasting extreme events, managing water resources and decision making. The frequency analysis was used to determine the design flood of different return periods. The results obtained are used in Gradex method to estimate the hydrologic variables of each subcatchment of the Upper Moulouya. Once the hydrologic study is completed, a principal components analysis was made to highlight the affinities between the different subcatchments and to deduce the hydrologic and hydrographic parameters that better characterize them. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.