Tidal effects on groundwater dynamics in unconfined aquifers

B. Ataie-Ashtiani, R. E. Volker, D. A. Lockington

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72 Citations (Scopus)


The variation of seawater level resulting from tidal fluctuations is usually neglected in regional groundwater flow studies. Although the tidal oscillation is damped near the shoreline, there is a quasi-steady-state rise in the mean water-table position, which may have an influence on regional groundwater flow. In this paper the effects of tidal fluctuations on groundwater hydraulics are investigated using a variably saturated numerical model that includes the effects of a realistic mild beach slope, seepage face and the unsaturated zone. In particular the impact of these factors on the velocity field in the aquifer is assessed. Simulations show that the tidal fluctuation has substantial consequences for the local velocity field in the vicinity of the exit face, which affects the nearshore migration of contaminant in coastal aquifers. An overheight in the water table as a result of the tidal fluctuation is observed and this has a significant effect on groundwater discharge to the sea when the landward boundary condition is a constant water level. The effect of beach slope is very significant and simplifying the problem by considering a vertical beach face causes serious errors in predicting the water-table position and the groundwater flux. For media with a high effective capillary fringe, the moisture retained above the water table is important in determining the effects of the tidal fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-669
Number of pages15
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal aquifer
  • Groundwater flow
  • Numerical model
  • Seepage face
  • Tidal fluctuation
  • Variably saturated flow


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