The complex ground-water flow in the Coldwater Spring aquifer system is the result of complicated geologic structures, porous media flow within the shallow unconsolidated zone, conduit flow in the karst bedrock aquifers, and discontinuities in hydrogeologic units caused by faulting. Recharge water in the unconsolidated zone percolates slowly to the underlying bedrock aquifer. The bedrock aquifer includes fractured zones in the Chilhowee Group and solution features in the Shady Dolomite, Conasauga Formation, Knox Groud, and Newala and Little Oak Limestones.
Ground-water movement in the shallow unconsolidated zone roughly follows the topographic surface as it moves deeper into the ground-water system. Ground water flowing south through the bedrock aquifers is bloced by less permeable rocks in the area of the Jacksonville Fault; and possibly moves south and west along the fault to discharge at Coldwater Spring. The recharge area for Coldwater Spring encompasses the recharge areas of the shallow unconsolidated zone and the bedrock aquifers.