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In the recent past, a variety of statistical and other modelling approaches have been developed to capture the properties of hydrological time series for their reliable prediction. However, the extent of complexity hinders the applicability of such traditional models in many cases. Kernel-based machine learning approaches have been found to be more popular due to their inherent advantages over traditional modelling techniques including artificial neural networks(ANNs). In this paper, a kernel-based learning approach is investigated for its suitability to capture the monthly variation of streamflow time series. Its performance is compared with that of the traditional approaches. Support vector machines (SVMs) are one such kernelbased algorithm that has given promising results in hydrology and associated areas. In this paper, the application of SVMs to regression problems, known as support vector regression (SVR), is presented to predict the monthly streamflow of the Mahanadi River in the state of Orissa, India. The results obtained are compared against the results derived from the traditional Box-Jenkins approach. While the correlation coefficient between the observed and predicted streamflows was found to be 0·77 in case of SVR, the same for different auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) models ranges between 0·67 and 0·69. The superiority of SVR as compared to traditional Box-Jenkins approach is also explained through the feature space representation.