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Keywords:

  • recession curves;
  • geomorphology;
  • source function

[1] We identify a previously undetected link between the river network morphology and key recession curves properties through a conceptual-physical model of the drainage process of the riparian unconfined aquifer. We show that the power-law exponent, α, of −dQ/dt vs. Q curves is related to the power-law exponent of N(l) vs. G(l) curves (which we show to be connected to Hack's law), where l is the downstream distance from the channel heads, N(l) is the number of channel reaches exactly located at a distance l from their channel head, and G(l) is the total length of the network located at a distance greater or equal to l from channel heads. Using Digital Terrain Models and daily discharge observations from 67 US basins we find that geomorphologic α estimates match well the values obtained from recession curves analyses. Finally, we argue that the link between recession flows and network morphology points to an important role of low-flow discharges in shaping the channel network.