Difference Between Basin and Valley (With Table)

Our earth’s surface is covered in 70% water, and the remaining 30% consists of landmasses. Earth Surface is mostly made up of rocks. The layer is formed by a hard crust of lava which was formed on the surface of earth some 4.5 billion years ago. Because of the movement in tectonic plates, many formations are formed on the surface. Basins and Valleys are examples of this. Basin is formed on land, whereas valleys are formed between hills and mountains. 

Basin vs Valley

The difference between Basin and Valley is that Basin is an area on land where rivers, bays or other sources of the water drain themselves. Valley is a low-lying area that is formed between hills and mountains. Basin covers a wider area than Valley. Valley is very much longer than the basin. Basin is surrounded by a higher land whereas Valley can be surrounded by hills, uplands and mountains.

Basin is referred by many names like drainage basin, river basin, water basin, catchment basin etc. Basin is an area of land which collects precipitation and drains itself into the water sources like rivers, bays etc. Basin can be connected to other basins when they are in a lower elevation and can also have various subdivisions, which in turn will drain in the common outlet. In North America, the basin is commonly known as a watershed.

Valley is a low elevated area that runs between mountains and hills. Valleys are formed because there is an erosion of land for a longer time. Some valleys are also formed by glacial ice. In deserted areas, Valleys are very dry, or they may contain a watercourse, but it happens rarely. Then there is rift Valley which is formed because of the earth’s movement. Valleys are referred to by many names according to their characteristics like Steelhead Valley, Dry Valley, Longitudinal valley, etc. 

Comparison Table Between Basin and Valley

Parameters of ComparisonBasinValley
NamesWatershed, Catchment area, Catchment basin, river basin, water basin, etc.Steephead Valley, Dry Valley, Longitudinal Valley, River Valley, Glacial valley, etc.
ShapeIt is like an oval or circular shape.It has a U-shape and V-shape.
SizeThey are wider and shorter.They are narrow and long.
LargestAmazon BasinSan Luis Valley of Colorado
CharacteristicsStreams and Creeks are its characteristics.Elongated Depression can be narrow and deep.

What is Basin?

Basin is like the shape of the funnel in which it collects water from different portions and channels it into a single point. Basins are separated by another basin by drainage divide, which creates a barrier in higher geographical areas like ridges, hills etc. There are various ocean basins in the world. The largest drainage of water from land to ocean occurs in the Atlantic Ocean, i.e. 48%. Then there is the Arctic Ocean which accounts for 17%. The Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean accounts for 13% drainage of water. Last is the Southern Ocean, in which Australia and Antarctica drain out.

There are five river basins in the world which are largest starting from Amazon, which is 7M km2, the Congo, which is 4M km2, the Nile, which is 3.4M km2, the Mississippi, which is 3.22M km2, and last is the Río de la Plata which is 3.17M km2. Rivers that drain most of the water are Amazon, Ganga and Congo basins. Some basins do not drain themselves into oceans but seas, rivers, lakes etc. There are 18%of land drains in the world which drains themselves intro other sources besides oceans. Examples are the Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, Dead Sea etc.

Basins are very important for our ecological system. As it carries nutrients and sediments from the ground, which also leads to the formation of delta and estuary. Basins also carry pollutants containing nitrogen, phosphorus, artificial fertilizers, potassium etc. which disturbs the balance of nutrients deposits and results in eutrophication. Many factors tell us about floodings like shape, size, soil type, topography, and land use.

What is Valley?

Valleys are formed due to several processes like when there is the erosion of soil for a long time by moving water, then river valleys are formed. When small valleys turn into a large valley that reaches the ocean, and it becomes an internal drainage basin ultimately. In Glacier regions, valleys are formed because of the erosion of glaciers that are U-shaped. River valleys are V-shaped. Rift valleys are formed when there is a shift in tectonic plates.

The portion of Valley which are flat between its sides is called as Valley floor. It is formed by river sediments. Depending on rock type, climate and topography plain, U-shaped and V-shaped valley can be formed. Valleys can be hanging, trough-shaped, box-shaped. It is believed that the first human civilization settled near valleys, and there are many evident proofs also like in Nile, Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Yellow River, Tigris-Euphrates, Mississippi, and arguably Amazon.

Valleys are useful because it is connected to water which is a fresh source, good for irrigation, for the agricultural process. In the valley, there is very little chance of flooding. Valley is a hollow or depression. It is very larger than the basin but is narrow in size. They range from 1 to 10 kilometres in width. Most of the valleys have horizontal floors. River valleys take many years, and the process of formation is slow. The largest valley in the world is the San Luis Valley of Colorado which is an alpine valley and is 7500 feet above sea level. 

Main Differences Between Basin and Valley

  1. Watershed, Catchment area, Catchment basin, river basin, drainage basin, water basin etc., are different names of Basin. Steephead Valley, Dry Valley, Longitudinal Valley, River Valley, Glacial valley, Alpine Valley etc., are its different types.
  2. Basin is like an oval, funnel or circular shape. Valleys have a U-shape, trough-shaped box shape and V-shape.
  3. Basin is wider than the valley and shorter in length. Valley is narrow and longer than the basin.
  4. The largest River basin in the world is Amazon Basin. The largest Valley in the world is the San Luis Valley of Colorado.
  5. The flow of Streams and Creeks determines the characteristics of the Basin. Elongated Depression, a formation that can be narrow and deep, is the characteristic of Valley.


Both Basin and Valley are depression or hollow. One is hollow on the earth’s surface, and the latter is hollow between mountains and hills. Basin is also called a Watershed. The feature of the Basin is to drain out the water in the streams and creeks into the water bodies. Valley is determined due to its formation. Valleys are very easy to navigate, and they are very useful for mankind as some of the first civilizations thrived there. Basins have their tributaries, Delta, estuaries, confluence and mouth of the rivers. Amazon Basin and San Luis Valley of Colorado are some of the largest basins and valleys in the world.


  1. https://search.proquest.com/openview/ef278784d80b8a2fc5cb8858fc479d6e/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
  2. http://www.ischolar.info/index.php/JGSI/article/view/70780
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