A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary,wetland, sea, or ocean. In closed drainage basins the water converges to a single point inside the basin, known as a sink, which may be a permanent lake, dry lake, or a point where surface water is lost underground. The drainage basin includes both the streams and rivers that convey the water as well as the land surfaces from which water drains into those channels, and is separated from adjacent basins by a drainage divide.
The drainage basin acts as a funnel by collecting all the water within the area covered by the basin and channelling it to a single point. Each drainage basin is separated topographically from adjacent basins by a geographical barrier such as aridge, hill or mountain.
Other terms that are used to describe a drainage basin are catchment, catchment area, catchment basin, drainage area, river basin and water basin. In the United Kingdom and Australia, a watershed refers to a divide that separates one drainage area from another drainage area, while in North America, it means the drainage basin or catchment area itself. Drainage basins drain into other drainage basins in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basinscombining into larger drainage basins.
Drainage basins are similar but not identical to hydrologic units, which are drainage areas delineated so as to nest into a multi-level hierarchical drainage system. Hydrologic units are designed to allow multiple inlets, outlets, or sinks. In a strict sense, all drainage basins are hydrologic units but not all hydrologic units are drainage basins.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency launched the website Watershed Central for the US public to exchange information and locate resources needed to restore local drainage basins in that country.