Advancement in river flow prediction systems can greatly empower the operational river management to make better decisions, practices, and policies. Machine learning methods recently have shown promising results in building accurate models for river flow prediction. This paper aims to identify models with higher accuracy, robustness, and generalization ability by inspecting the accuracy of a number of machine learning models. The proposed models for river flow include support vector regression (SVR), a hybrid of SVR with a fruit fly optimization algorithm (FOA) (so-called FOASVR), and an M5 model tree (M5). Additionally, the influence of periodicity (π) on the forecasting enactment was examined. To assess the performance of the proposed models, different statistical meters were implemented, including root mean squared error (RMSE), mean absolute error (MAE), correlation coefficient (R), and Bayesian information criterion (BIC). Results showed that the FOASVR with RMSE (4.36 and 6.33 m3
/s), MAE (2.40 and 3.71 m3
/s) and R (0.82 and 0.81) values had the best performance in forecasting river flows at Babarud and Vaniar stations, respectively. Also, regarding BIC parameters, Qt−1
and π were selected as parsimonious inputs for predicting river flow one month ahead. Overall findings indicated that, although both the FOASVR and M5 predicted the river flows in suitable accordance with observed river flows, the performance of the FOASVR was moderately better than the M5 and periodicity noticeably increased the performance of the models; consequently, FOASVR can be suggested as the most accurate method for forecasting river flows.
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