Lateral migration is a key process shaping sinuous rivers and controlling sediment exchange with floodplains. The rate at which channels migrate is affected by bend curvature, bank erodibility, and sediment supply. The relationship between migration rate and sediment supply is poorly understood in dryland regions, where direct measurements are scarce. Here we propose a simple mass-balance model to estimate the sediment flux of ephemeral streams in North America's Great Basin and establish a comparison with timelapse photogrammetric data of lateral migration. The model takes into consideration variables such as long-term hillslope erosion, transient sediment storage in intra-catchment lowlands, and sediment bypass to depocenters. Our results point to first-order similarities in how sediment supply drives channel migration across diverse hydro-climatic regimes. However, we find that, for a given sediment supply and channel width, and despite their ephemeral discharge, dryland streams with minimal bank vegetation migrate about three times faster than humid-climate, vegetated ones. This difference in migration pace likely results from the compound effect of bank erodibility and bend geometry. Our model sheds new light on the driving mechanisms of channel mobility in dryland streams and may find application in assessing the sediment budgets of ungauged streams, reservoir trapping, and morphodynamic adjustments in stressed watersheds.

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