The following are examples of American case sites applying the principle of "usufructory ownership" to surface water:
Eddy v. Simpson, 3 Calif, 249, 252 (1853): "It is laid down by our law writers, that the right of property in water is usufructory, and consists not so much of the fluid itself as the advantage of its use."
Rickey Land & Cattle Co. v. Miller & Lux, 152 Fed. 11, 18 (C.C.A. 9th, 1907.) The water appropriator acquires no specific property in the water itself - the corpus of the water - while flowing in the stream; what he acquires is a right of diversion and use of some specific quantity of water that at the time may be flowing in the stream.
(See also: Section on California Surface Water Law.)