"I think that our biggest achievement as a water service provider has been bringing water and sanitation services to so many poor people and transforming their lives," said Macleod.
EWS was established as a public water service provider in 1996. In 2000, its scope and boundaries were expanded, creating the challenge of having to provide services to one million people.
"... Providing water to 1.3 million people and proper sanitation to 700 000 people in such a short space of time has not been achieved in many countries," said Macleod.
He said the key to their success has been innovation and not being scared to take unconventional decisions.
"Technologies used to bring services to the poor such as electronic bailiff units, community ablution blocks and the construction of 80 000 urine diversion toilets speak to our past.
"What we have realised is that into the future, we need to find new technologies that meet people's expectations when it comes to sanitation."
Macleod said South Africa needed to move away from a sanitation system that separates the "haves" from the "have-nots". He said he hoped to see an innovation in the not-too-distant future, which will eradicate the need for water based toilets.
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane congratulated eThekwini for leading the way in bringing services to the masses.
"It is quite heartening to see our own local government receiving this kind of recognition. We can say it is because of the political will, good management and cooperation within the municipality, provincial and national government, the community, as well as support from the private sector.
"We believe that if our local authorities can learn out of this, we can eradicate our sanitation backlog. We need to commend the leadership and bravery of the eThekwini Municipality for having broken new ground. We look forward to other municipalities [achieving the same]," said the Minister.
She said South Africa needed to move away from a "one size fits all approach" when it comes to sanitation. She said municipalities had to work around the fact that it was difficult to lay bulk infrastructure in every district in the country due to geographic and population factors. This, she said, opened room for other sanitation solutions to be rolled out.
Incoming EWS head, Ednick Msweli, said the award was an honour for them and an affirmation that they were moving in the right direction as a municipality.
SIWI's Karen Meijer congratulated EWS, saying the municipality had outdone itself to claim the award.
The South African Local Government Association (Salga) has also congratulated EWS, saying the award was a "resounding game changer for South Africa and the entire African continent.