The potential energies for the water dimer in various geometrical configurations have been calculated with a configuration-interaction method. The computed dimerization binding energies corresponding to the potential minima for the linear, cyclic, and bifurcated configurations are -5.6, -4.9, and -4.2 kcal/mole, respectively; the correlation effects account for -1.1, -1.2, and -0.9 kcal/mole, respectively, of the total binding energy for these three dimeric forms. The correlation effects for the entire potential surface have been analyzed in terms of inter- and intramolecular effects; the substantial coupling found between these effects, particularly in the vicinity of equilibrium position, is discussed. The computational technique employed, in particular an analysis on the selection criteria for the configuration state functions, is discussed, and its reliability is assessed. Two analytical expressions for the water dimer potential surface obtained by fitting the calculated energies are presented. The potential surface given here is being used to determine the structure of liquid water (in the pairwise approximation and with Monte Carlo techniques); this latter work will be reported elsewhere. Copyright © 1976 American Institute of Physics.