Approaches to modeling the continuous hydrologic response of ungauged basins use observable physical characteristics of watersheds to either directly infer values for the parameters of hydrologic models, or to establish regression relationships between watershed structure and model parameters. Both these approaches still have widely discussed limitations, including impacts of model structural uncertainty. In this paper we introduce an alternative, model independent, approach to streamflow prediction in ungauged basins based on empirical evidence of relationships between watershed structure, climate and watershed response behavior. Instead of directly estimating values for model parameters, different hydrologic response behaviors of the watershed, quantified through model independent streamflow indices, are estimated and subsequently regionalized in an uncertainty framework. This results in expected ranges of streamflow indices in ungauged watersheds. A pilot study using 30 UK watersheds shows how this regionalized information can be used to constrain ensemble predictions of any model at ungauged sites. Dominant controlling characteristics were found to be climate (wetness index), watershed topography (slope), and hydrogeology. Main streamflow indices were high pulse count, runoff ratio, and the slope of the flow duration curve. This new approach provided sharp and reliable predictions of continuous streamflow at the ungauged sites tested. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.