To adequately manage the fragile and changing environments of semiarid regions it is essential to disentangle human from climate or other environmental impacts over longer timescales than human memory. We investigated sediment cores from Salada Chiprana, a saline lake in the central Ebro basin in Spain, using pollen, charcoal, sedimentological, geochemical and radiometric dating techniques. The sequence indicates a rapid evolution from an ephemeral playa lake during the Late Holocene to a permanent saline lake a few centuries ago. The limnological evolution correlates with changes in agricultural practices and provides evidence of the strong impact of irrigation on the lake's hydrological balance from the XVth century. The work demonstrates that the Salada Chiprana, the only permanent, relatively deep, hypersaline lake in Spain has been created by a long history of human interaction with the landscape.