Meta-heuristic algorithms have been broadly used to deal with a range of water resources optimization problems over the past decades. One issue that exists in the use of these algorithms is the requirement of large computational resources, especially when handling real-world problems. To overcome this challenge, this paper develops a hybrid optimization method, the so-called CSHS, in which a cuckoo search (CS) algorithm is combined with a harmony search (HS) scheme. Within this hybrid framework, the CS is employed to find the promising regions of the search space within the initial explorative stages of the search, followed by a thorough exploitation phase using the combined CS and HS algorithms. The utility of the proposed CSHS is demonstrated using four water distribution system design problems with increased scales and complexity. The obtained results reveal that the CSHS method outperforms the standard CS, as well as the majority of other meta-heuristics that have previously been applied to the case studies investigated, in terms of efficiently seeking optimal solutions. Furthermore, the CSHS has two control parameters that need to be fine-tuned compared to many other algorithms, which is appealing for its practical application as an extensive parameter-calibration process is typically computationally very demanding.