In rainfall-runoff studies, it is often necessary to change the duration of a given unit hydrograph. Nash's Instantaneous Unit Hydrograph (IUH) is an ideal method that eliminates the hydrograph duration. This paper presents the results of the application of search algorithms, namely a genetic algorithm and hill climbing, to develop the IUH that minimizes the error between the observed and generated hydrographs. Also the performance of these methods has been compared with that of the classical method used for estimation of IUH, namely the method of moments. The genetic algorithm is a popular search procedure for function optimization that applies the mechanics of natural genetics and natural selection to explore a given search space. Hill climbing is an optimization technique that belongs to the family of local search and algorithms can be used to solve problems that have many solutions, with some solutions better than others. The results obtained from both the genetic algorithm and hill climbing algorithm for estimation of Nash's WH parameters were compared with the results obtained by the method of moments for storms from two river basins that are located in different climatic regions. It was found that both the genetic algorithm and hill climbing provided improved and consistent results. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.