Niangziguan Spring complex is the largest karst spring in North China. We investigate the karst hydrological processes by using Morlet wavelet transform analysis and cross wavelet analysis based on monthly precipitation from 1958 to 2010 and spring discharge from 1958 to 2009. From Morlet wavelet transform coefficients of precipitation and the spring discharge in Niangziguan Springs Basin, we find that the precipitation and discharge are characterized by the multi-scale features in the time domain, and the energy distribution of the signal is highly irregular across scales. Although precipitation eventually becomes spring discharge by infiltrating and propagating through karst formations, the signals are attenuated. The results also show that the precipitation of Niangziguan Springs Basin has the main periodic components of 1-, 5-, 12-, and 17-year periods with alternating wet–drought cycle. Similarly, the spring discharge of Niangziguan Springs has the main components of 17-year periods, but the 1-, 5-, and 12-year periodicity of precipitation are not reflected in spring discharge, which is filtered by the aquifers. The results of cross wavelet analysis reveal that the precipitation and spring discharge share the common periodicity of 17 years. This means that those signals with high energy and long timescales can penetrate through the aquifer and be reflected in spring discharge, whereas other signals are filtered and modified. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.