What Is Littoral Land?

Littoral land refers to a piece of land that borders a pooled or standing body of water, such as a lake, ocean, or sea. This classification differs from riparian land, which borders a flowing water source, such as a river or stream.

Key Takeaways

  • Littoral land refers to a piece of land that borders a pooled or standing body of water, such as a lake, ocean, or sea.
  • This classification differs from riparian land, which borders a flowing water source, such as a river or stream.
  • Littoral land is colloquially called "beachfront" or "lakefront" property, while riparian land has earned the moniker of "riverfront" property.
  • This land is often purchased by developers and business owners for the purpose of constructing fashionable housing, hotels, or other tourist attractions.
  • Littoral rights are a landowner’s claim to use of the body of water bordering their property, as well as the use of its shore area.

Understanding Littoral Land

Littoral land is a term used to refer to land that is located next to a pooled body of water. Littoral land includes land that is situated next to a lake, ocean, or sea. The term stands in contrast to riparian land, which is any land located next to flowing waterways like a river or stream.

Littoral land is colloquially called "beachfront" or "lakefront" property, while riparian land has earned the moniker of "riverfront" property. Both types of land are usually quite expensive, due primarily to their proximity to the water, though littoral land might be a bit more desirable. This land is often purchased by developers and business owners for the purpose of constructing fashionable housing, hotels, or other tourist attractions.

Landowners with littoral rights have unrestricted access to the waters but own the land only to the median high-water mark.

Special Considerations

Littoral Rights and Riparian Rights

Individuals may be familiar with the term littoral rights, which is used when speaking about water rights. Like littoral land, littoral rights pertain to the water rights of lakes and oceans. Water rights do not always correspond with land ownership, but sometimes real estate ownership does include rights to the adjacent bodies of water. Littoral rights are a landowner’s claim to use of the body of water bordering their property, as well as the use of its shore area.

Riparian rights are those rights and obligations awarded to landowners whose property is adjacent to or abutting a river or stream. Typically, landowners have the right to use the water as long as such use does not harm upstream or downstream neighbors. In the event the water is a non-navigable waterway, the landowner generally owns the land beneath the water to the exact center of the waterway.

Littoral rights pertain to landowners whose land borders large, navigable lakes and oceans. Landowners with littoral rights have unrestricted access to the waters but own the land only to the median high-water mark. After this point, the land is owned by the government. Water rights are appurtenant, meaning they are attached to the land and not to the owner. In other words, if an oceanfront property is sold, the new owner gains the littoral rights; in exchange, the seller relinquishes their rights.

Water rights are regulated by the states and each municipality can enforce stricter provisions on water access and usage.

Portfolio Diversification Using Water

Water rights can be a hot-button issue in some communities, and individuals can invest in water by investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track water-related market indices. Some of the more popular indexes that track various water-related investment opportunities are the Dow Jones U.S. Water Index, the ISE Clean Edge Water Index, the S&P Composite 1500 Utilities Index, and the S&P Global Water Index.

Many investors look to water as a way to diversify their portfolios. Water is a finite resource and population growth, climate change, and aging infrastructure seriously threaten the supply and quality of fresh water in many parts of the world, including the United States.

Research has shown that water as an alternative asset improves a traditional stock and bond portfolio.