This paper presents a theoretical model of flow and chemical transport processes in subterranean estuaries (unconfined brackish groundwater aquifers at the ocean- land interface). The model shows that groundwater circulation and oscillating flow, caused by wave setup and tide, may constitute up to 96% of submarine groundwater discharge (SGWD) compared with 4% due to the net groundwater discharge. While these local flow processes do not change the total amount of land-derived chemical input to the ocean over a long period (e.g., yearly), they induce fluctuations of the chemical transfer rate as the aquifer undergoes saltwater intrusion. This may result in a substantial increase in chemical fluxes to the ocean over a short period (e.g., monthly and by a factor of 20 above the averaged level), imposing a possible threat to the marine environment. These results are essentially consistent with the experimental findings of Moore [1996] and have important implications for coastal resources management.