Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Alluvion Definition:

The gradual increase of land by the action of water such as by tides or currents.

Related Terms: Avulsion, Accretion, Batture, Dereliction, Riparian Rights

The 1816 edition of A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating The Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity defines alluvion as folows:

"Alluvion is where land is gained from the sea side by the washing up of sand and earth, so as in time to make terra firma."

Alluvion applies equally to the sudden action of non-tidal rivers and lakes. Thus, in John Bouvier's Law Dictionary, alluvion is defined as:

"That increase of the earth on a shore or bank of a river, or to the shore of the sea, by the force of the water, as by a current or by waves, of from its recession in a navigable lake, which is so gradual that no man can judge how much is added at each moment of time.

"The proprietor of the bank increased by alluvion is entitled to the addition...."

Or in Osborn's Law Dictionary:

"An imperceptibly gradual deposit of soil from a river or the sea."

In New Orleans, Justice MacLean of the United States Supreme Court wrote:

"The history of the alluvial formations by the action of the waters of this mighty river is interesting to the public, and still more so to the riparian proprietors.

"The question is well settled at common law that the person whose land is bounded by a stream of water which changes its course gradually by alluvial formations shall still hold by the same boundary, including the accumulated soil. No other rule can be applied on just principles. Every proprietor whose land is thus bounded is subject to loss by the same means which may add to his territory, and as he is without remedy for his loss in this way, he cannot be held accountable for his gain."

Alluvion difers from avulsion in that in the case of the latter, the accretion of land occurs as a result of a sudden action of water. In accretion by alluvion, the rate of increase is, by definition, imperceptible.


  • Hobday, S. R., Coulson & Forbes on the Law of Waters: Sea, Tidal and Inland and Land Drainage (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1952), page 39
  • Jeffris v East Omaha Land Co. 134 US 178 (1890)
  • New Orleans v US 35 US 662 (1836)
  • Williams, T. W., A Compendious and Comprehensive Law Dictionary Elucidating The Terms and General Principles of Law and Equity (London: Gale and Fenner, 1816).

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