The first phase of the Western Waters Digital Library (WWDL) project was led by the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) and funded in 2003 with a two-year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). National Leadership Grants fund projects that "…provide creative solutions on issues of national importance and provide leadership for other organizations". To establish the Western Waters Digital Library, twelve academic research libraries in eight western states created digital collections focused on four principal river basins: the Platte, Rio Grande, Colorado and Columbia. Project participants were successful in establishing a sustainable technical infrastructure, a model for institutional cooperation and collaboration, and a core collection of digital resources about water in the west. This project laid the foundation for on-going growth and development of the WWDL.