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 benefit when compared to steam generated from boilers. Because of these uses, our water consumption is tied closely to energy use; therefore, improvements in energy efficiency can also conserve water.
We also use water for safety systems (i.e., fire suppression) and cleaning. We have significantly improved our water efficiency by identifying facilities that are consuming more water per unit production than similar facilities, conducting assessments at these facilities to identify conservation opportunities and making appropriate changes at the plants. Much of our water conservation has been through improved cooling tower operations and converting to recycled gray water in our plants. We have also used air-cooling to reduce water consumption.
We continue to use recycled water, particularly in Southern California, to reduce our consumption of freshwater. Collaboration with industrial neighbors and joint venture partners has enabled this recycling. Across all our plants, we estimate that 9% of our water was from recycled sources in 2019.
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 7% in 2019 for a total reduction of 26% since the baseline year.
Our consumption of water, on an absolute basis, decreased to 15.8 billion gallonsin 2019 due to increased water recycling.