Floodplains are formed when a meander erodes sideways as it travels downstream. When a river breaks its banks, it leaves behind layers of alluvium (silt). These gradually build up to create the floor of the plain. Floodplains generally contain unconsolidated sediments, often extending below the bed of the stream. These are accumulations of sand, gravel, loam, silt, and/or clay, and are often important aquifers, the water drawn from them being pre-filtered compared to the water in the river.