Air Products cannot operate its facilities without adequate water supplies. This reality drives us to be good stewards of water. We use water primarily for cooling, to make hydrogen using the steam methane reforming (SMR) process, and to provide steam and water to our customers. The steam is a co-product of our SMRs and has a significant energy efficiency advantage and related environmental benefits when compared to steam generated in boilers.
Because of these uses, our water consumption is tied closely to energy use; therefore, improvements in energy efficiency can also reduce water consumption. We have also saved water by improving cooling tower operations and converting to recycled gray water in our plants, particularly in Southern California where water is stressed. Across our plants, we estimate that 7% of our water was from recycled sources in 2020.
In 2016, Air Products established a goal to reduce water consumption by 5% on an indexed basis by 2020 from a 2015 baseline. We achieved this goal in 2017 and continued to improve water efficiency through subsequent years, reducing our water intensity by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019 for a total reduction of 26% since the baseline year.
Our consumption of water, on an absolute basis, decreased to 14.5 billion gallons in 2020 due to increased water recycling and lower power demand. Additional data on water withdrawals, consumption and discharges is provided in the GRI Content Index to this Report.
We have made significant progress in reducing water use intensity at our ASU and HyCO facilities since 2009 and will continue to do so through energy efficiency improvements and conservation projects that will focus on areas where water is stressed. We also will continue to increase our understanding of the water required for our megaprojects and identify areas where we can make meaningful progress in conserving water.