WHAT IS 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 land located next to flowing waterways like a river or stream.


Littoral land is a term deployed to refer to lakefront or oceanfront property. This type of land is usually quite expensive, due primarily to its proximity to the water. This land is often purchased by developers for the purpose of constructing fashionable housing and hotels.

Other Uses of the Term and Water Rights

Individuals may be familiar with the term littoral rights, which is used when speaking about water rights. Like littoral land, littoral rights speaks to the water rights of lakes and oceans. Water rights do not always correspond with the land ownership, but sometimes real estate ownership does mean rights to the adjacent bodies of water.

Riparian rights are awarded to land owners whose property is located along a river, stream or lake. 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 ocean front property is sold, the new owner gains the littoral rights; the seller relinquishes his or her rights.

Why It Matters Who Owns Water

Water rights are a hot button issue in many communities, and individuals can invest in water by investing in Exchange Traded Funds 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-B&S Water Index, The S&P 1500 Water Utilities Index and the S&P Global Water Index.  Many investors look to water as a way to diversify their portfolio. 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.