What is Talweg doctrine

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Corey J. Hughes, P.S.

Riparian Bottomlands Apportionment & Boundary Consulting

Riparian Rights Definitions, Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Addition.



Accretion:   The act of growing to a thing; usually applied to the gradual and imperceptible accumulation of land by natural causes, as out of the sea or water.  Land. Addition of portions of soil, by gradual deposition through the operation of natural causes, to that already in possession of the owner.  The term “alluvion” is applied to the deposit itself, while “accretion” denotes the act.

Alluvion:   That increase of the earth on a shore or bank of a stream or by the sea, by the force of the water, as by a current or by waves, which is so gradual that no one can judge how much is added at each moment of time. “Accretion” denotes the act.

Avulsion:   A sudden and perceptible loss or addition to land by the action of water, or a sudden change in the bed or course of a stream. The removal of a considerable quantity of soil from the land of one man, and its deposit upon or annexation to the land of another, suddenly and by the perceptible action of water.

Where running streams are the boundaries between states or private owners and if the stream from any cause, natural or artificial, suddenly leaves its old bed and forms a new one by the process known as “avulsion,” the resulting change of channel works no change of boundary, which remains in the middle of the old channel though no water may be flowing in it and irrespective of subsequent changes in the new channel.

Correlative Rights:   Refers to doctrine which is applied to owners of land and their rights to use of their land with respect to rights of adjoining or lower riparian landowners in water or oil.

Littoral Rights:   Rights concerning properties abutting an ocean, sea or lake rather than a river or stream (riparian). Littoral rights are usually concerned with the use and enjoyment of the shore.   

Reliction:   An increase of the land by the permanent withdrawal or retrocession of the sea or a river. Process of gradual exposure of land by permanent recession of body of water.

Riparian Rights:   The rights of the owners of lands on the banks of watercourses, relating to the water, its use, ownership of soil under the stream, accretions, etc. Term is generally defined as the right which every person through whose land a natural watercourse runs has to benefit of stream as it passes through his land for all useful purposes to which it may be applied.

Talweg:   Old German spelling was Thalweg. Tal meaning valley, Weg meaning way. Commonly used by writers on international law in definition of water boundaries between states, meaning the middle or deepest or most navigable channel, and while often styled “fairway” or “midway” or “main channel” the word has been taken over into various languages and the doctrine of Talweg is often applicable In respect of water boundaries to sounds, bays, straits, gulfs, estuaries and other arms of the sea and also applies to boundary lakes and landlocked seas whenever there is a deep water sailing channel therein.

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