Metaheuristics are multi-purpose problem solvers devoted to particularly tackle large instances of complex optimization problems. However, in spite of the relevance of metaheuristics in the optimization world, their proper design and implementation to reach optimal solutions is not a simple task. Metaheuristics require an initial parameter configuration, which is dramatically relevant for the efficient exploration and exploitation of the search space, and therefore to the effective finding of high-quality solutions. In this paper, the authors propose a variation of the water cycle inspired metaheuristic capable of automatically adjusting its parameter by using the autonomous search paradigm. The goal of our proposal is to explore and to exploit promising regions of the search space to rapidly converge to optimal solutions. To validate the proposal, we tested 160 instances of the manufacturing cell design problem, which is a relevant problem for the industry, whose objective is to minimize the number of movements and exchanges of parts between organizational elements called cells. As a result of the experimental analysis, the authors checked that the proposal performs similarly to the default approach, but without being specifically configured for solving the problem.