A harmonic decomposition technique is applied to the shallow water equations to yield a complex, nonsymmetric, nonlinear, Helmholtz type problem for the sea surface and an accompanying complex, nonlinear diagonal problem for the velocities. The equation for the sea surface is linearized using successive approximation and then discretized with linear, triangular finite elements. The study focuses on applying iterative methods to solve the resulting complex linear systems. The comparative evaluation includes both standard iterative methods for the real subsystems and complex versions of the well known Bi-Conjugate Gradient and Bi-Conjugate Gradient Squared methods. Several Incomplete LU type preconditioners are discussed, and the effects of node ordering, rejection strategy, domain geometry and Coriolis parameter (affecting asymmetry) are investigated. Implementation details for the complex case are discussed. Performance studies are presented and comparisons made with a frontal solver. ?? 1993.