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 the way we use water, 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 the use of recycled gray water in our plants, when possible, particularly in Southern California where water is stressed. Across our plants, we estimate that four percent of our water was from recycled sources in 2021.
Air Products is committed to increasing energy efficiency and promoting the responsible use of water. In 2021, our water consumption declined by 16 percent on an intensity basis compared to 2020.
Our consumption of water, on an absolute basis, was 13.3 billion gallons in 2021. Additional data on water withdrawals, consumption and discharges is provided in the GRI Content Index to this Report.