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Assuming a sharp interface between freshwater and seawater within a coastal aquifer, a theory is developed to account for the piezometric head movement of steady and unsteady components in terms of large- and small-time scales. Tidal fluctuations are simulated by a series of decomposed simple harmonic motions in time. Groundwater fluctuation induced by tidal motion is perturbed to the groundwater head of large-time scale. Ghyben–Herzberg formulation is applied for solutions of large-time scale and a unified formulation for various flows of small-time scale is derived (Strack, 1989). Approximate analytical solutions for amplitudes and phase lags of tidal groundwater motions and the freshwater–seawater interface for a coastal aquifer in a circular island are obtained. The induced fluctuation amplitude generally decays in distance with a parameter consisting of hydraulic conductivity, storage coefficient, thickness of aquifer and tidal period. The present approach can be applied to confined and unconfined aquifers, with only freshwater flows or interfacial flows. The theory is verified with some experimental results (Parlange, et al., 1984; Nielson, 1990). It can also used to determine physical parameters of an aquifer by monitoring the groundwater fluctuations due to tidal motions (Carr and van der Kamp, 1969).