Riparian Rights vs. Littoral Rights
Riparian rights are those rights and obligations that are incidental to ownership of land adjacent to or abutting watercourses such as navigable streams and rivers, whereas littoral rights are a landowner’s claim to use of the body of water bordering his or her property as well as use of its shore area.
Riparian Rights — Those rights and obligations that are incidental to ownership of land adjacent to or abutting on watercourses such as streams and rivers. Examples of such rights are the right of irrigation, swimming, boating, fishing and the right to the alluvium deposited by the water. Riparian rights do not attach except where there is a water boundary on one side of the particular tract of land claimed to be riparian. Such a real property right in water is a right of use, or a usufructuary right. It is the right held in common with other riparian owners to make reasonable use of the waters that flow past provided such use does not alter the flow of water or contaminate the water. In addition, an owner of land bordering on a nonnavigable stream owns the land under the watercourse to the center of the watercourse.
If the body of water is in movement, as a stream or river, the abutting owner is called a riparian owner. If the water is not flowing, as in the case of a pond, lake or ocean, the abutting owner is called a littoral owner. The word riparian literally means “riverbank.”
Littoral Rights — Those rights and obligations that are incidental to ownership of land bordering on the shore of a sea or ocean and thus affected by the tide currents. Littoral land is different from riparian land, which borders on the bank of a watercourse or stream.
Source: The Language of Real Estate