The main development stages of the basin concept: from landscape hydrology to nature management are considered. It is shown that the river, lake and sea drainage basins are the most widespread natural complexes on and surface, with a high degree of integrity and with clear-cut watershed divides having a powerful integrating factor, the water flow. The substantiation is provided for the concepts of the basis as a geosystem, the runoff-forming complexes and the hydrological functions of landscape as well as for the principles of hydrological, water-resources and water-protection regionalization and zoning. On this basis, a classification of hazardous hydrological processes is developed. The structural patterns of the river network within the framework of structural geography are used for indication of the mean long-term discharge and its mapping, and for a classification of river systems according to their size. It is demonstrated that the integrating properties of the water flow permit the basin to be regarded as an integral system entity not only from the perspective of hydrology but also in terms of geomorphology, biogeocenology, landscape geochemistry as well as in complex physical geography as functionally integral natural complexes thereby creating the natural basis for nature management. On the other hand, many basins are socioeconomic and ethnodemographic entities. Ten principles are formulated for the theoretical justification of the basin concept of nature management where the basin is treated as an integral natural and economic system. It is suggested that such an approach should be used in governance of nature management, especially in international basins, as well as in reforming the system of administrative-territorial division of Russia.Keywords: basin, runoff-forming complex, landscape hydrology, natural and economic system, structural-hydrographic regularities, basin mapping.